The State Court Perspective
Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series
Daniel J. Elazar writes that, “Students of federal systems have tended to focus their attention on the federal constitution that frames the entire polity while neglecting the constitutional arrangements of the constituent polities.” Perhaps nowhere is this focus on the “entire polity” to the exclusion of its “constituent polities” clearer than in the study of the American judiciary. One need only peruse a law library or bookstore to see that the study of America’s courts, like the study of American constitutionalism generally, is tilted overwhelming towards the role that the federal government and federal judiciary play in the United States with scant attention given to the role of the states and state courts. Notwithstanding the emergence of the new judicial federalism movement in the 1970s with its renewed emphasis on the role of state courts and state constitutions in national governance and rights adjudication, the American public, many scholars, and most lawyers generally understand judicial power in reference to its exercise in the federal courts even though the administration of justice that most frequently touches daily life plays out in the states. Few if any law schools offer courses on state courts, preferring to focus on the federal judiciary as though America’s justice system is comprised of a unitary court arrangement where states play a subsidiary not coterminous role. Scholars have, therefore, largely ignored the state courts focusing the vast majority of their scholarship on the federal judiciary.