Sprint filed suit in both federal and state court for review of a decision by the Iowa Utilities Board. The federal court abstained from ruling citing Younger v Harris. The 8th Circuit affirmed. The Court unanimously reversed. It held that Younger abstention applies only when the parallel state case is a criminal prosecution, a civil case that closely resembles a criminal prosecution and suits to enforce judgments. Here, Sprint, not Iowa, initiated the administrative action, there was no allegation of wrongdoing unlike attorney discipline or criminal nuisance proceedings and the final ruling did not impose any sanctions on Sprint. Thus, there was no basis to involve younger and the case was remanded for further proceedings.
The writ of certiorari was dismissed as improvidently granted. Three justices dissented arguing that the correct procedure should be additional briefing on the questions of mootness, standing and whether 29 USC 302 actually provides for a private cause of action. The dissent noted the justices’ concern that allowing the lower court opinion to retain precedential status could undermine collective bargaining by discouraging employers from entering into agreements to assist union organizing activities.