Relations between the Federal and State Courts

By Mitchell Wendell | Go to book overview

PREFACE

IT is a commonplace that American federalism has a large judicial ingredient. The Constitution itself is a legal document and the publicity given to landmark decisions of the Supreme Court interpreting some of the more familiar provisions such as the Commerce Clause, the Implied Powers Clause, and the Tenth Amendment has brought the realization that judicial decision often sets the pattern for national and state action. But the fact that the celebrated constitutional cases have ultimately been fought out in the United States. Supreme Court has fostered the seldom spoken although pervasive belief that the primary contribution of the judiciary to our federalism has been made via the interpretation of basic constitutional principles; in the Supreme Court. This highest tribunal in our federal judiciary has undoubtedly exerted a primary influence on the character of our federal system by its historic interpretations of the key clauses in the Constitution but it should also be remembered that the United States Supreme Court is only one tribunal among many and that both lower federal courts and state courts contribute significantly to the operation of our federal system. They also interpret the Constitution and in addition, they perform the painstaking tasks necessary to the day by day adjustment of federal-state judicial relations.

In reality the task of both federal and state judiciaries is twofold: 1. The delimiting of the respective range of federal and state power, and 2. The division of judicial jurisdiction between Nation and States. Of course, both of these tasks are performed within a framework provided by the Constitution and legislative enactments, but the brunt of the labor still falls on the courts themselves. The first of the above mentioned judicial activities is, for reasons already indicated, fairly well understood. However, the public significance of the second task is little understood. The people who know most about the functioning of the federal and state judiciaries and the re-

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