The Tax Injunction Act and Federal Jurisdiction: Reasoning from the Underlying Goals of Federalism and Comity
States routinely contest federal jurisdiction when a state tax is challenged in federal district court on federal constitutional grounds. States argue that the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1341 (2006), bars jurisdiction and, even if the Tax Injunction Act does not apply, the principals of federalism and comity require abstention. The United States Supreme Court has not squarely addressed the scope of federalism and comity in relation to the Tax Injunction Act, and federal courts of appeal are split. In the Fourth and Tenth Circuits, federalism and comity require federal district courts to abstain even where the Tax Injunction Act permits jurisdiction. In the First, Sixth, and Seventh Circuits, however, federalism and comity reach no further than the Tax Injunction Act. This Note (1) discusses the circuit split, (2) provides a framework for analyzing the federal judiciary’s role in constitutional litigation involving state interests, and (3) resolves the circuit split by arguing that federalism concerns do not justify abstention and that comity concerns, in extreme cases, may justify abstention.