in regulating the industry. To this end, the Texas legislature concentrated review of Commission orders in one court, creating uniformity of decision and eliminating confusion. Burford, 319 U.S. at 318-25.
Justice Black observed that, "as a practical matter, the federal courts can make small contribution to the well organized system of regulation and review which the Texas statutes provide." The Texas courts were capable of providing full relief, while "delay, misunderstanding of local law, and needless federal conflict with state policy" would be "the inevitable product" of federal intervention. The Court thus concluded that, given the "basic problems of Texas policy" involved in Commission-related matters, the federal courts should have exercised their equitable discretion and abstained from Sun Oil's dispute. Id. at 325-32.
From this case has come what is known as " Burford abstention." The Court has held that this form of abstention is appropriate when federal review of questions of state law "in a case and in similar cases would be disruptive of state efforts to establish a coherent policy with respect to a matter of substantial public concern." Colorado River Water Cons. Dist. v. U.S., 424 U.S. 800, 814, 47 L. Ed. 2d 483, 96 S. Ct. 1236 (1976); see also New Orleans Public Service, Inc. v. Council of City of New Orleans, 491 U.S. 350, 57 U.S.L.W. 4755, 4758, 105 L. Ed. 2d 298, 109 S. Ct. 2506 (1989). Unlike instances where courts should abstain to avoid federal constitutional questions, see, for example, Railroad Comm'n v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496, 85 L. Ed. 971, 61 S. Ct. 643 (1940), or to reduce conflict with on-going state proceedings, see, for example, Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669, 91 S. Ct. 746 (1971), in cases where federal jurisdiction is premised on the presence of a federal question, and one party asks the federal court to abstain for the reasons announced in Burford, the justification required for abstention may be great. See Colorado River, 424 U.S. at 815 n.21. The Court's cases involving Burford abstention in disputes arising under federal law bear this out. See Julie A. Davies, Pullman and Burford Abstention: Clarifying the Roles of State and Federal Courts in Constitutional Cases, 20 U.C. Davis L.Rev. 1, 11-15 (1986).
The Seventh Circuit's cases discussing Burford abstention have hewed closely to Colorado River's description of the doctrine. They indicate that in order to claim Burford abstention, the party seeking it must demonstrate that the state is striving to establish a coherent policy with respect to a matter of great importance to that state's citizens. Many things can indicate the importance of a matter to a state. One is a long history of state regulation. See Wynn v. Carey, 582 F.2d 1375, 1383 (7th Cir. 1978) (refusing to abstain where state did not demonstrate expertise in regulating parental consent to a minor's abortion, as state began regulating in 1977). Another is the special nature or complexity of the state's laws. See id. (abstention not proper where state scheme did not involve a "specialized aspect of local law"); Evans v. City of Chicago, 689 F.2d 1286, 1296 (7th Cir. 1982), rev'd on other grounds, 873 F.2d 1007 (7th Cir. 1989) (citing cases denying motion for abstention involving conditions at juvenile detention home, residential zoning, and granting of cable television franchise; none involved "complex" statutes or regulatory schemes); Board of Educ. of Valley View v. Bosworth, 713 F.2d 1316 (7th Cir. 1983) (simple, easy-to-read state tax law, one not a product of a specialized state agency, does not evince heightened state expertise; abstention not warranted). Unique procedures or tribunals for adjudicating regulatory disputes are still other ways of indicating importance. See Local Div. 519, Etc. v. LaCrosse Mun. Transit U., 585 F.2d 1340, 1350 (7th Cir. 1978) (abstention inappropriate where state's system of regulating public employee labor disputes did not have peculiar procedures or special tribunals for resolving disputes); Evans, 689 F.2d at 1296 (abstention inappropriate where state laws allowing municipality to decide how to satisfy tort judgments did not erect special system of review); Bosworth, 713 F.2d at 1320 (state evinced relative disconcern for tax policy by not erecting special tribunal; abstention not warranted). A large, judicially cognizable influence of the industry upon the state's economy can raise a like inference. See Evans, 689 F.2d at 1296, citing Three Rivers Cablevision v. City of Pittsburgh, 502 F. Supp. 1118 (W.D. Pa. 1980) (municipal cable television franchise not important outside of its locality; abstention not necessary).
Proving that something is vitally important to the state will not automatically result in Burford abstention.
Nevertheless, requiring a party to show through objective signs like those listed above the importance of a particular matter to a state best prevents parties from using the existence of state regulations -- no matter how simple those regulations are -- to deprive plaintiffs improperly of their right to receive the benefits of a federal forum. See Martha A. Field, Abstention in Constitutional Cases: The Scope of the Pullman Doctrine, 122 U.Pa.L.Rev. 1071, 1156-57 (1974); Davies, 20 U.C. Davis L.Rev. at 47-48.
Few, if any, of the factors recounted above are present here. Illinois commenced administrative regulation of car towing companies in 1978. Prior to that time, general principles of law controlled the companies' activities. See Pioneer Towing, 99 Ill.App.3d at 406. While the ICC's regulation of the industry may be complex, the question before this court -- Illinois' $ 45.00 cap on the towers' fees -- is not a product of these regulations, according to the towers. It is a discrete policy enacted by the Illinois General Assembly, which this court presumes it can separate from the ICC's general regulatory scheme.
Illinois does not concentrate review of the ICC's regulations of towers in a special court or tribunal; instead, a person can seek review of these regulations in many Illinois courts. See Ill.Ann.Stat. para. 18a-103 (providing for review of ICC orders under Illinois Administrative Review Law, Ill.Ann.Stat. ch. 110, paras. 3-101 et seq. (Smith-Hurd Ann. 1983)); Id. at P 3-104 (providing within broad limits for review in the Circuit Court of any county, unless venue prescribed).
Other factors which traditionally indicate heightened state interest are not present here either. With all due respect to the plaintiffs, their industry does not profoundly influence Illinois' government or its economy. Moreover, the Commercial Relocation law is limited to counties with populations exceeding 1,000,000 persons.
This further indicates the relative unimportance of the towers' business to the People and the State of Illinois. It is safe to say that the impact of these businesses on Illinois' economy is not the same as that of the oil industry on Texas's economy, or that of the short-line rail system at issue in Alabama Comm'n v. Southern R. Co., 341 U.S. 341, 95 L. Ed. 1002, 71 S. Ct. 762 (1951), on Alabama's economy. Abstention under the principles announced in Burford is thus unwarranted in this case.
For the reasons stated in this opinion, this court dismisses Count 6 for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The court denies the defendants' other motions to dismiss.