State supreme court

State supreme court

:"This article discusses the state supreme courts in the United States. See Australian court hierarchy for the counterparts in Australian states. See Supreme court for the highest court in a country."

In the United States, the state supreme court (known by various names in various states) is the highest state court in the state court system.

Generally, the state supreme court is exclusively for hearing appeals of legal issues. It does not make any finding of facts, and thus holds no trials. In the rare case where the trial court made an error in its finding of facts, the state supreme court will remand to the trial court for a new trial. This responsibility of correcting the errors of inferior courts has resulted in a variety of names for state supreme courts.

The court consists of a panel of judges selected by methods outlined in the state constitution.

Appellate jurisdiction

Under American federalism, the interpretation of a state supreme court on a matter of state law is normally final and binding and must be accepted in both state and federal courts.

Federal courts may only overrule a state court when there is a federal question, which is to say, a specific issue (such as consistency with the Federal Constitution) that gives rise to federal jurisdiction. Rulings of state supreme courts on such matters may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court of the United States.

One of the informal traditions of the American legal system is that all litigants are guaranteed at least one appeal after a final judgment on the merits. However, appeal is merely a privilege provided by "statute" in 47 states and in federal judicial proceedings; the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that there is no "federal" constitutional right to an appeal. ["Smith v. Robbins", 528 U.S. 259, 270 n.5 (2000) (" [t] he Constitution does not . . . require states to create appellate review in the first place"); "M.L.B. v. S.L.J.", 519 U.S. 102, 110 (1996) ("the Federal Constitution guarantees no right to appellate review").]

Since a few states lack intermediate appellate courts, the state supreme court operates under "mandatory review", in which it "must" hear all appeals from the trial courts. Such judicial systems are usually very congested. [Valerie Miller, "Judges renew their call for appeals court," "Las Vegas Business Press" 19, no. 3 (21 January 2002): 1.]

Most state supreme courts have implemented "discretionary review," like their federal counterpart. Under such a system, intermediate appellate courts are entrusted with deciding the vast majority of appeals. For certain limited categories of cases, the state supreme court still operates under mandatory review, usually with regard to cases involving the interpretation of the state constitution or capital punishment. But for the vast majority, the state supreme court possesses the discretion to grant "certiorari" (known as "review" in states that discourage the use of Latin). These cases usually pertain to issues which different appellate courts within its jurisdiction have decided differently, or highly controversial cases involving a completely new legal issue never seen in that state.

Iowa has a unique procedure for appeals. In that state, "all" appeals are filed with the Supreme Court, which then keeps all cases of first impression for itself to decide. It forwards the remaining cases — which deal with points of law it has already addressed — to the intermediate Court of Appeals.


"Court of Appeals"

Because state supreme courts generally hear only appeals, some courts have names which directly indicate their function — in the states of New York and Maryland, and in the District of Columbia, the highest court is called "Court of Appeals." In New York, the "Supreme Court" is the trial court of general unlimited jurisdiction and the intermediate appellate court is called the "Supreme Court—Appellate Division." Maryland's jury trial courts are called "Circuit Courts" (non-jury trials are usually conducted by the "District Courts," whose decisions may be appealed to the Circuit Courts), and the intermediate appellate court is called the "Court of Special Appeals." West Virginia mixes the two; its highest court is called the "Supreme Court of Appeals."

Other states' supreme courts have used the term "Appeals": New Jersey's supreme courts under the 1844 constitution and Delaware's supreme court were both the "Court of Errors and Appeals"; The term "Errors" refers to the now-obsolete writ of error, which was used by state supreme courts to correct certain types of egregious errors committed by lower courts.

Older terminology

Massachusetts and New Hampshire originally named their highest courts the "Superior Court of Judicature." Currently, Massachusetts used the names "Supreme Judicial Court" (to distinguish itself from the state legislature, which is called the Massachusetts General Court), while New Hampshire uses the name "Supreme Court." Additionally the highest court in Maine is named the "Supreme Judicial Court." In Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, the highest courts formerly used variations of the term "Court of Errors," which indicated that the court's primary purpose was to correct the errors of lower courts.

Dual supreme courts

Oklahoma and Texas have two separate "supreme courts": one for criminal appeals and one for civil cases - the former being called "Court of Criminal Appeals", and the latter the "Supreme Court."

Methods of composition and practitioners

There are five specific methods of selecting judges to sit on the states' top courts, which can be consolidated into two related ones and one hybrid: Elections (popularly, with party involvement; the same without political party involvement; by the state legislature); selection by the executive (Governor); or a modified version of the last (such as the Missouri Plan). Each method has its supporters and detractors, and at least one method (The Missouri Plan) was created specifically because of the contentiousness of another.

The Federal territories of GuamFact|date=February 2007, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico all empower the executive to appoint their judges. In the case of American Samoa, however, the executive is the United States Secretary of the Interior, not the local governor. [cite web|title=CIA - The World Factbook -- American Samoa|author=Central Intelligence Agency|url=|accessmonthday=March 30 |accessyear=2005]

Partisan election

* Alabama
* Illinois
* Louisiana
* New Mexico
* Pennsylvania
* Texas
* West Virginia

Non-partisan election [— A non partisan election does not mean that the judges run and are selected with no regard to political beliefs. In many cases "non-partisan election" merely means the prospective judges' parties are not printed on the ballot.]

* Arkansas
* Georgia
* Idaho
* Kentucky
* Michigan
* Minnesota
* Mississippi
* Montana
* Nevada
* North Carolina
* North Dakota
* Ohio
* Oregon
* South Dakota
* Washington
* Wisconsin

Election by the state legislature

* Connecticut
* Rhode Island
* South Carolina
* Vermont
* Virginia

Appointment by the Governor [In most cases the appointment must be agreed to by the upper house of the State's legislature (similar to the U.S. Senate's "advice and consent" powers in the Federal system). The judge may also have to stand in a retention election.]

* Delaware
* Hawaii
* Maine
* Massachusetts
* New Hampshire
* New Jersey
* New York

The Missouri Plan

* Alaska
* Arizona
* California
* Colorado
* Indiana
* Iowa
* Kansas
* Missouri
* Maryland
* Nebraska
* Oklahoma
* Utah
* Wyoming

Modified Missouri

* Florida — The Florida Judicial Nominating Commissions
* Tennessee — The Tennessee Plan

List of state supreme courts

*Supreme Court of Alabama
*Alaska Supreme Court
*Arizona Supreme Court
*Arkansas Supreme Court
*Supreme Court of California
*Colorado Supreme Court
*Connecticut Supreme Court (formerly the "Supreme Court of Errors")
*Delaware Supreme Court (formerly the "Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals")
*Florida Supreme Court
*Supreme Court of Georgia
*Supreme Court of Hawaii
*Idaho Supreme Court
*Supreme Court of Illinois
*Supreme Court of Indiana
*Iowa Supreme Court
*Kansas Supreme Court
*Kentucky Supreme Court (formerly the "Court of Appeals")
*Louisiana Supreme Court (formerly the "Superior Court of Louisiana" and the "Superior Court of the Territory of Orleans")
*Maine Supreme Judicial Court
*Maryland Court of Appeals
*Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (formerly the "Superior Court of Judicature")
*Michigan Supreme Court
*Minnesota Supreme Court
*Supreme Court of Mississippi
*Supreme Court of Missouri

*Montana Supreme Court
*Nebraska Supreme Court
*Supreme Court of Nevada
*New Hampshire Supreme Court (formerly the "Superior Court of Judicature")
*New Jersey Supreme Court (formerly the "Court of Errors and Appeals")
*New Mexico Supreme Court
*New York Court of Appeals
*North Carolina Supreme Court
*North Dakota Supreme Court
*Ohio Supreme Court
*Oklahoma Supreme Court
*Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (formerly the "Criminal Court of Appeals")
*Oregon Supreme Court
*Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
*Rhode Island Supreme Court
*South Carolina Supreme Court
*South Dakota Supreme Court
*Tennessee Supreme Court
*Texas Supreme Court
*Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (formerly the "Court of Appeals")
*Utah Supreme Court
*Vermont Supreme Court
*Supreme Court of Virginia (formerly the "Supreme Court of Appeals")
*Washington Supreme Court
*Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
*Wisconsin Supreme Court
*Wyoming Supreme Court

Supreme courts in the U.S. territories and federal district

*High Court of American Samoa
*District of Columbia Court of Appeals (formerly the "Municipal Court of Appeals")
*Supreme Court of Guam
*Northern Mariana Islands Supreme Court
*Supreme Court of Puerto Rico
*United States Virgin Islands Supreme Court

Supreme courts of sovereign nations

*Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (formerly the Judicial Appeals Tribunal)
*Supreme Court of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (North Carolina) [ [ EBCI Tribal Court website] ]
*Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation (formerly the "Court of Appeals")

See also

* United States court of appeals
* United States district court
* United States federal courts
* United States Supreme Court


External links

* [ Judicial Independence and Democratic Accountability in Highest State Courts]

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