Definition - What does Abstention Doctrine mean?
A court may exercise discretion to decline to hear a case that it otherwise has jurisdiction to hear under the abstention doctrine.
The abstention doctrine is most often invoked by federal courts when they are asked to decide a case that involves an unresolved question of state law. This practice reflects an understanding that state courts are the proper venue for deciding issues of state law.
Justipedia explains Abstention Doctrine
Cases are often filed in federal courts that involve questions of federal law and state law. Federal courts are typically obligated to interpret state law under the rules established by that state’s supreme court. But, when a case comes before a federal court involving a question of state law that has not been resolved in that state, a federal court may invoke the abstention doctrine and refuse to decide the state law issue until the state courts clarify their law.