The developments examined in this book highlight an underlying theme in the Supreme Court's recent jurisprudence: a preference for state court adjudication of federal constitutional challenges to state conduct. To be sure, claims that state or local officials are violating the federal constitution continue to be brought in federal court. Nevertheless, in recent years the Supreme Court has used the various doctrines discussed in earlier chapters to clear the federal court dockets of cases against state and local officials. The Court has embraced the notion that litigants should rely on state courts when they seek to attack the constitutionality of state or local practices. Under this scheme for protecting rights the lower federal courts play a limited role and, as in the pre-Reconstruction days, the state courts once again become the primary protectors of federal constitutional rights.
The critical issue--one that has provoked much debate--is whether it really makes any difference if a state, rather than a federal, court hears these cases.1 Before examining that issue, it is imporant to mention that this question and the surrounding debate are distinct from the important question of whether rights are better protected by a court or a legislative body.2 So too, they can be considered independent of the current interest in using state constitutions to protect rights.3 Whatever the resolution of