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be disturbed upon a showing of an abuse of discretion. See Matter of Howe, 913 F.2d 1138,

1143 (5th Cir. 1991). Many courts, in an effort to give expression to the parameters of that

discretion, have developed multi-factor tests.8 While helpful, they are by their very nature, not

dispositive. Mechanical applications of such tests to rule on equitable issues that are heavily

fact-specific are often doomed to produce incorrect outcomes.9 The various tests offered by

these opinions must be viewed in the larger context of the task presented – to arrive at the

equitable application of the permissive abstention doctrine, as appropriately applied in the

bankruptcy context. Or, more simply, we must avoid losing the forest for the trees. See Murphy

v.

Uncle

Ben's,

Inc.,

168

F.3d

734,

(5th

Cir.

1999)

(“[t]he

decision

whether

to

surrender

jurisdiction because of parallel state court litigation does not rest on a “mechanical checklist” of

[abstention] factors, but on a ‘careful balancing’ of them, ‘as they apply in a given case, with the

balance heavily weighted in favor of the exercise of jurisdiction.’), citing Moses H. Cone Mem'l

Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 16, (1983)).

The larger context of permissive abstention is informed by the base principles that led to

its

inclusion

in

the

bankruptcy

jurisdiction

statute

in

1978.

Those

principles

included

the

importance of centralized administration in one forum, the breadth of bankruptcy jurisdiction

intended to have been conferred, the need to deal with unexpected exigencies or to step back

when the matter to be litigated is especially important to be resolved in a state forum,10

and the

need to do justice (as well as to avoid doing an injustice).11

8 In re Denton County Elec. Co-Op, Inc., 281 BR 876, 881 and notes 10-11 (Bankr. N.D. Tex.) (citing cases from the 7th and 9th Circuits and bankruptcy districts in the southern and northern districts of Texas).

9 A person is sent into a crowded room with directions to find Judge Clark by applying the following multi-factor test : (1) tall, (2) blond hair, (3) angular features, (4) dressed stylishly, and (5) having a resonant voice. The person returns with David Bowie in tow. If the person had simply been given a recent picture of Judge Clark (which would have been worth far more than all the factors one could write down on a piece of paper), chances are he would have quickly returned with the judge, not the singer.

10 The legislative history specifically cited to Thompson v. Magnolia Petroleum, 309 U.S. 478 (1940), a case which involved the intersection of federal bankruptcy jurisdiction with the State of Texas’ strong interest in regulating the law surrounding the development and sale of oil and gas in that state.

11 The example offered in the legislative history involved a preference for not abstaining if the matter in question could not be brought elsewhere.

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