Friday, August 10, 2018

Woolhandler and Collins on Federal Supremacy and State Jurisdictional Duties

Ann Woolhandler and Michael G. Collins, University of Virginia School of Law, have posted Federal Supremacy and State Jurisdictional Duties:
Federal Courts scholarship often focuses on access to federal courts for the decision of federal claims. At the same time, many Federal Courts scholars insist that state courts must hear affirmative federal causes of action, even when the lower federal courts are open to the same claims—the very federal courts regarded by such scholars as superior to state courts. This article takes issue with suggestions that the state courts have broad duties to entertain affirmative federal claims, whether statutory or constitutional. There is little early support for requiring state courts to entertain affirmative federal statutory and constitutional claims, and considerable evidence against it. In the twentieth century, however, the Court began to compel state courts to take jurisdiction of certain federal statutory actions in a line of cases associated with Testa v. Katt. Such compulsion, however, was not justified by the Supremacy Clause or related arguments. The Court also occasionally required state courts to provide certain constitutionally necessary affirmative remedies, in a different line of cases associated with General Oil v. Crain. The constitutionally compelled remedies strand was based on a requirement that the states supply adequate remedies for certain federal constitutional violations, rather than a Supremacy-based command that the states provide the same causes of action that the federal courts provide, as under Testa. The effect of more recent Supreme Court decisions such as Haywood v. Drown and scholarly proposals following the Court’s 2016 decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana threaten to submerge the Crain line of cases into the Testa line, possibly requiring greater state court conformity with federal courts as to causes of action for raising constitutional claims. Such uniformity, however, threatens to diminish the role of the states in fashioning different solutions to problems of governmental illegality. State variation may be all the more important in light of frequently-voiced dissatisfaction with the Court’s federal habeas corpus doctrine and constitutional tort doctrine under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. State court duties thus will not necessarily enhance the enforcement of federal constitutional law, and might actually undermine it.

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