Court responded, however, that federal intervention at the appellate stage was just as disruptive of the state's interests as was the situation in Younger. Characterizing the plaintiff's suit as an attempt to substitute the federal court for the state appellate court, the Huffman Court refused to permit the plaintiff to bypass its state appellate remedies. Id. at 608-09, 95 S. Ct. at 1210-11.
I recognize that Huffman is not wholly apposite to the instant action because plaintiffs' respective postures vis-a-vis the states' enforcement mechanisms differ. In Huffman, the federal plaintiff had actually litigated its constitutional claim and had lost, whereas plaintiffs here have never raised their constitutional challenge in state court, having chosen instead to enter into the assurance of voluntary compliance. It is, however, precisely this latter point plaintiffs' voluntary agreement to comply with the generic drug law, together with the implications of filing that agreement in the court of common pleas that likens this case to Huffman and brings it within the Younger prohibition. Here, as in Huffman, the force of state process has a present direct and inhibiting impact upon plaintiffs.
That the Commonwealth's investigation into plaintiffs' retail drug business never ripened into litigation is unimportant. What is decisive here is that plaintiffs voluntarily submitted themselves to the jurisdiction of the court of common pleas by executing the assurance of compliance. I disagree with plaintiffs' assertion that the assurance began and ended the matter. Even though no formal pleadings were ever filed, the assurance is, in my view, much in the nature of a consent decree. And like a consent decree, the assurance imposes upon plaintiffs a continuing obligation, subject to judicial sanction, to conform their actions to the terms of their agreement.
The fact that the assurance continues in full force and effect distinguishes the instant action from the situation in the arguably applicable Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705, 97 S. Ct. 1428, 51 L. Ed. 2d 752 (1977). The plaintiff in Wooley, who had been convicted three times under a New Hampshire statute for obscuring the state motto on his license plate, succeeded in securing from a three-judge district court an injunction against further enforcement of the statute. In affirming the grant of relief and approving the lower court's exercise of jurisdiction under the circumstances, the Court noted that the relief requested was wholly prospective and would in no way "annul any collateral effects" flowing from the state convictions. Id. at 711, 97 S. Ct. at 1433.
Such is not the case here. Quite clearly, a present determination of the validity of the generic drug law would directly affect plaintiffs' obligations under the assurance of voluntary compliance entered in the common pleas court. Indeed, the relief requested by plaintiffs would completely vitiate that agreement. This intervention into a matter over which a state court has continuing jurisdiction is plainly the kind of evil that Younger abstention is intended to forestall.
Because plaintiffs so obviously seek to obviate the effects of the state process, Younger requires that I dismiss the action unless plaintiffs come within one of the recognized exceptions to the doctrine. I conclude that they do not. First, there is simply no evidence that the investigation into plaintiffs' business operations and the subsequent securing of the assurance of voluntary compliance were the result of bad faith or harassment. Second, the statute is not so " "flagrantly and patently violative of express constitutional prohibitions in every clause, sentence and paragraph, and in whatever manner and against whomever an effort might be made to apply it' " as to warrant the exercise of jurisdiction here. Younger v. Harris, supra, 401 U.S. at 53-54, 91 S. Ct. at 755 (citation omitted). Third, plaintiffs have made no showing that they would be foreclosed from raising their constitutional claims in an attack on the validity of the assurance in the court of common pleas. Finally, plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate the great and immediate irreparable injury that would justify this court's intrusion into what is, under the circumstances, a state prerogative. I will enter an appropriate order.