A Florida prosecutor filed suit in state court against Mitchum to close down Mitchum’s bookstore as a public nuisance under Florida law. The state court entered a preliminary injunction that closed operation of the bookstore. When further state proceedings stalled, Mitchum (plaintiff) filed a civil rights action against state officials (defendants) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The claim alleged violations of rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and sought injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to stay the state proceedings. The district court denied the injunction, holding that the federal anti-injunction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2283, prohibited a stay of the state proceeding, in accordance with Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 398 U.S. 281. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari on that issue.