JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
The primary issue in this case is whether a district court order denying a motion to stay or dismiss an action when a similar suit is pending in state court is immediately appealable.
Petitioner Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation and respondent Mayacamas Corporation entered into a contract under which respondent agreed to purchase an aircraft manufactured by petitioner. Respondent subsequently refused to make payments due, claiming that petitioner, by increasing
Petitioner promptly moved for a stay or dismissal of the federal-court action pursuant to the doctrine of Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976). In Colorado River, we held that in "exceptional" circumstances, a federal district court may stay or dismiss an action solely because of the pendency of similar litigation in state court. Id., at 818; see Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Construction Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 13-19 (1983).
Petitioner filed a notice of appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, alleging that the
Petitioner's principal contention in this case is that the District Court's order denying the motion to stay or dismiss the federal-court litigation is immediately appealable under § 1291. That section provides for appellate review of "final decisions" of the district courts. This Court long has stated that as a general rule a district court's decision is appealable under this section only when the decision "ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment." Catlin v. United States, 324 U.S. 229, 233 (1945).
Since Cohen, we have had many occasions to revisit and refine the collateral-order exception to the final-judgment rule. We have articulated a three-pronged test to determine whether an order that does not finally resolve a litigation is nonetheless appealable under § 1291. See Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463 (1978); see also, e. g., Richardson-Merrell Inc. v. Koller, 472 U.S. 424, 431 (1985); Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Risjord, 449 U.S. 368, 375 (1981). First, the order must "conclusively determine the disputed question." Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U. S., at 468. Second, the order must "resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action." Ibid. Third and finally, the order must be "effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment." Ibid. (footnote omitted). If the order at issue fails to satisfy any one of these requirements, it is not appealable under the collateral-order exception to § 1291.
This Court held in Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Construction Corp., 460 U.S. 1 (1983), that a district court order granting a stay of litigation pursuant to Colorado River meets each of the three requirements of the collateral-order doctrine and therefore is appealable under § 1291. 460 U. S., at 11-13. In applying the collateral-order doctrine, we found that an order refusing to proceed with litigation because of the pendency of a similar action in state court satisfies the second and third prongs of the test.
Application of the collateral-order test to an order denying a motion to stay or dismiss an action pursuant to Colorado
Petitioner argues in the alternative that the District Court's order in this case is immediately appealable under § 1292(a)(1), which gives the courts of appeals jurisdiction of appeals from interlocutory orders granting or denying injunctions. An order by a federal court that relates only to the conduct or progress of litigation before that court ordinarily is not considered an injunction and therefore is not appealable under § 1292(a)(1). See Switzerland Cheese Assn., Inc. v. E. Horne's Market, Inc., 385 U.S. 23, 25 (1966); International Products Corp. v. Koons, 325 F.2d 403, 406 (CA2 1963) (Friendly, J.). Under the Enelow-Ettelson doctrine, however, certain orders that stay or refuse to stay judicial proceedings are considered injunctions and therefore are immediately appealable. Petitioner asserts that the order in this case, which denied a motion for a stay of a federal-court action pending the resolution of a concurrent state-court proceeding, is appealable under § 1292(a)(1) pursuant to the Enelow-Ettelson doctrine.
The line of cases we must examine to resolve this claim began some 50 years ago, when this Court decided Enelow v. New York Life Ins. Co., 293 U.S. 379 (1935). At the time of that decision, law and equity remained separate jurisprudential systems in the federal courts. The same judges administered both these systems, however, so that a federal district judge was both a chancellor in equity and a judge at law. In Enelow, the plaintiff sued at law to recover on a life insurance policy. The insurance company raised the affirmative defense that the policy had been obtained by fraud and moved the District Court to stay the trial of the law action pending resolution of this equitable defense. The District Court granted this motion, and the plaintiff appealed. This Court likened the stay to an injunction issued by an equity court to restrain an action at law. The Court stated:
The Court thus concluded that the District Court's order was appealable under § 1292(a)(1).
In Ettelson v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 317 U.S. 188 (1942), the Court reaffirmed the rule of Enelow, notwithstanding that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure had fully merged law and equity in the interim. The relevant facts of Ettelson were identical to those of Enelow, and the Court responded to them in the same fashion. In response to the argument that the fusion of law and equity had destroyed the analogy between the stay ordered in the action and an injunction issued by a chancellor of a separate proceeding at law, the Court stated only that the plaintiffs were "in no different position than if a state equity court had restrained them from proceeding in the law action." 317 U. S., at 192. Thus, the order granting the stay was held to be immediately appealable as an injunction.
The historical analysis underlying the results in Enelow and Ettelson has bred a doctrine of curious contours. Under the Enelow-Ettelson rule, most recently restated in Baltimore
The parties in this case dispute whether the Enelow-Ettelson rule makes the District Court's decision to deny a stay immediately appealable under § 1292(a)(1). Both parties agree that an action for breach of contract was an action at law prior to the merger of law and equity. They vigorously contest, however, whether the stay of an action pending the resolution of similar proceedings in a state court is equitable in the requisite sense. Petitioner relies primarily on the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the
We decline to address the issue of appealability in these terms; indeed, the sterility of the debate between the parties illustrates the need for a more fundamental consideration of the precedents in this area. This Court long has understood that the Enelow-Ettelson rule is deficient in utility and sense. In the two cases we have decided since Ettelson relating to the rule, we criticized its perpetuation of "outmoded procedural differentiations" and its consequent tendency to produce incongruous results. Baltimore Contractors, Inc. v. Bodinger, supra, at 184; see Morgantown v. Royal Ins. Co., 337 U.S. 254, 257-258 (1949). We refrained then from overruling the Enelow and Ettelson decisions,
As an initial matter, the Enelow-Ettelson doctrine is, in the modern world of litigation, a total fiction. Even when the rule was announced, it was artificial. Although at that time law and equity remained two separate systems, they were administered by the same judges. When a single official was both chancellor and law judge, a stay of an action at law on equitable grounds required nothing more than an order issued by the official regulating the progress of the litigation before him, and the decision to call this order an injunction just because it would have been an injunction in a system with separate law and equity judges had little justification. With the merger of law and equity, which was accomplished by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the practice of describing these stays as injunctions lost all connection with the reality of the federal courts' procedural system. As Judge Charles Clark, the principal draftsman of the Rules, wrote:
The Enelow rule had presupposed two different systems of justice administered by separate tribunals, even if these tribunals
The artificiality of the Enelow-Ettelson doctrine is not merely an intellectual infelicity; the gulf between the historical procedures underlying the rule and the modern procedures of federal courts renders the rule hopelessly unworkable in operation. The decisions in Enelow and Ettelson treated as straightforward the questions whether the underlying suit, on the one hand, and the motion for a stay, on the other, would properly have been brought in a court of equity or in a court of law. Experience since the merger of law and equity, however, has shown that both questions are frequently difficult and sometimes insoluble. Suits that involve diverse claims and request diverse forms of relief often are not easily categorized as equitable or legal. As one Court of Appeals complained in handling such a suit, "Enelow-Ettelson is virtually impossible to apply to a complaint . . . in which the averments and prayers are a puree of legal and equitable theories and of claims that had no antecedents in the old bifurcated system." Danford v. Schwabacher, 488 F.2d 454, 456 (CA9 1973). Actions for declaratory judgments are neither legal nor equitable, and courts have therefore had to look to the kind of action that would have been brought had Congress not provided the declaratory judgment remedy. Thus, the rule has placed courts "in the unenviable position not only of solving modern procedural problems by the application of labels which have no currency, but also of considering the nature of law suits which were never brought." Diematic Manufacturing Corp. v. Packaging Industries, Inc., 516 F.2d 975, 978 (CA2), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 913 (1975). The task of characterizing stays as based in either law or equity has proved equally intractable. In an early case applying the doctrine, for example, this Court held that
Most important, the Enelow-Ettelson doctrine is "divorced from any rational or coherent appeals policy." Lee v. Ply[*]Gem Industries, Inc., 193 U. S. App. D. C. 112, 115, 593 F.2d 1266, 1269 (footnote omitted), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 967 (1979). Under the rule, appellate jurisdiction of orders granting or denying stays depends upon a set of considerations that in no way reflects or relates to the need for interlocutory review. There is no reason to think that appeal of a stay order is more suitable in cases in which the underlying action is at law and the stay is based on equitable grounds than in cases in which one of these conditions is not satisfied. The rule's focus on historical distinctions thus produces arbitrary and anomalous results. See Baltimore Contractors, Inc. v. Bodinger, 348 U. S., at 184 (noting the "incongruity of taking jurisdiction from a stay in a law type
For these reasons, the lower federal courts repeatedly have lambasted the Enelow-Ettelson doctrine. The rule has been called "a remnant from the jurisprudential attic," Danford v. Schwabacher, supra, at 455, "an anachronism wrapped up in an atavism," Hartford Financial Systems, Inc. v. Florida Software Services, Inc., 712 F.2d 724, 727 (CA1 1983), and a "Byzantine peculiarit[y]," New England Power Co. v. Asiatic Petroleum Corp., 456 F.2d 183, 189 (CA1 1972). With the exception of the Federal Circuit, which apparently has not yet confronted an Enelow-Ettelson appeal, every Circuit is on record with criticism of the doctrine.
Commentators have been no less scathing in their evaluations of the Enelow-Ettelson rule. Professor Moore and his collaborators have noted the difficulty of applying archaic labels to modern actions and defenses and expressed the wish that "the Supreme Court will accept the first opportunity offered to decide that the reason for the Enelow-Ettelson rule having ceased, the rule is no more." 9 J. Moore, B. Ward, & J. Lucas, Moore's Federal Practice ¶ 110.20, p. 245 (1987). Professor Wright and his collaborators have gone further, arguing that the extensive experience that the Courts of Appeals have had in attempting to rationalize and apply the rule would justify them in rejecting it. 16 C. Wright, A. Miller, E. Cooper, & E. Gressman, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3923, p. 65 (1977).
The case against perpetuation of this sterile and antiquated doctrine seems to us conclusive. We therefore overturn the cases establishing the Enelow-Ettelson rule and hold that orders granting or denying stays of "legal" proceedings on "equitable" grounds are not automatically appealable under § 1292(a)(1). This holding will not prevent interlocutory review of district court orders when such review is truly needed. Section 1292(a)(1) will, of course, continue to provide appellate jurisdiction over orders that grant or deny injunctions and orders that have the practical effect of granting
Petitioner finally contends that if the order denying the motion for a stay or dismissal is not appealable, the Court of Appeals should have issued a writ of mandamus directing the
This Court repeatedly has observed that the writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy, to be reserved for extraordinary situations. See, e. g., Kerr v. United States District Court, 426 U.S. 394, 402 (1976). The federal courts traditionally have used the writ only "to confine an inferior court to a lawful exercise of its prescribed jurisdiction or to compel it to exercise its authority when it is its duty to do so." Roche v. Evaporated Milk Assn., 319 U.S. 21, 26 (1943). In accord with this historic practice, we have held that only "exceptional circumstances amounting to a judicial `usurpation of power' " will justify issuance of the writ. Will v. United States, 389 U.S. 90, 95 (1967), quoting De Beers Consol. Mines, Ltd. v. United States, 325 U.S. 212, 217 (1945). Moreover, we have held that the party seeking mandamus has the "burden of showing that its right to issuance of the writ is `clear and indisputable.' " Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Holland, 346 U.S. 379, 384 (1953), quoting United States v. Duell, 172 U.S. 576, 582 (1899).
Petitioner has failed to satisfy this stringent standard.
The District Court's order denying petitioner's motion to stay or dismiss respondent's suit because of the pendency of similar litigation in state court was not immediately appealable under § 1291 or § 1292(a)(1). In addition, the District Court's order did not call for the issuance of a writ of mandamus. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE KENNEDY took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
JUSTICE SCALIA, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion, but write separately principally to express what seems to me a necessary addition to the analysis
In my view, refusing to apply the Cohen exception makes little sense in the present case because not only (1) the motion is likely to be renewed and reconsidered, but also (2) the relief will be just as effective, or nearly as effective, if accorded at a later date — that is, the harm caused during the interval between initial denial and reconsideration will not be severe. Moreover, since these two conditions will almost always be met when the asserted basis for an initial stay motion is the pendency of state proceedings, the more general conclusion that initial orders denying Colorado River motions are never immediately appealable is justified.
I note that today's result could also be reached by application of the rule adopted by the First Circuit, that to come within the Cohen exception the issue on appeal must involve " `an important and unsettled question of controlling law, not merely a question of the proper exercise of the trial court's
"The courts of appeals . . . shall have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district courts of the United States . . . except where a direct review may be had in the Supreme Court."
"[T]he courts of appeals shall have jurisdiction of appeals from:
"(1) Interlocutory orders of the district courts of the United States . . . or of the judges thereof, granting, continuing, modifying, refusing or dissolving injunctions, or refusing to dissolve or modify injunctions, except where a direct review may be had in the Supreme Court."
"The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law."
"Since the right to a judgment from more than one court is a matter of grace and not a necessary ingredient of justice, Congress from the very beginning has, by forbidding piecemeal disposition on appeal of what for practical purposes is a single controversy, set itself against enfeebling judicial administration. Thereby is avoided the obstruction to just claims that would come from permitting the harassment and cost of a succession of separate appeals from the various rulings to which a litigation may give rise, from its initiation to entry of judgment. To be effective, judicial administration must not be leaden-footed. Its momentum would be arrested by permitting separate reviews of the component elements in a unified cause."
"When a district judge, in making in a civil action an order not otherwise appealable under this section, shall be of the opinion that such order involves a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation, he shall so state in writing in such order. The Court of Appeals may thereupon, in its discretion, permit an appeal to be taken from such order . . . ."
Several Courts of Appeals have viewed Congress' enactment of § 1292(b), which occurred after the Enelow and Ettelson decisions, as further justification for abandoning the Enelow-Ettelson doctrine. See, e. g., Olson v. Paine, Webber, Jackson & Curtis, Inc., 806 F.2d 731, 738 (CA7 1986).