State Supreme Courts of the United States
The state supreme courts are distinctly different from the federal United States Supreme Court. State supreme courts are the final judicial tribunal for each state. They do not perform trials or hear any facts or evidence but instead act as an appellate court to rule on previously tried cases. This system is to correct any errors that occur in the standard justice system where misconduct took place, or the trial was inadvertently closed with an incorrect verdict.
Each state supreme court is made up of a panel of judges, chosen via the state’s method for selection.
The final rulings of a state supreme court justice are to be upheld by both the state and federal agencies and are considered complete and binding. On rare occasions, the federal court may overrule a state supreme court if there is a question as to federal compliance with the Constitution. In all other cases, the federal courts do not have any power over the state supreme courts.
Interestingly enough, there is no law guaranteeing any party the right to an appeal; it is only a privilege offered by common law which has evolved since drafting the Constitution.
There is also a system of intermediate appellate courts in some states. These courts do the dirty work of reviewing and ruling on the “correctness” of trial verdicts and verifying whether or not the trial court complied with the law.
Most U.S. states have decided on a system of “discretionary review, ” and this is where the appellate courts come into play, performing the mundane process of reviewing the cases for adherence to the law. A few U.S. states have abnormal procedures for filing an appeal that differs from the other states. There are some cases such as capital offense crimes which require a mandatory review.
For the most part, state supreme courts are located in the capital city of each state with a few exceptions: Alaska, California, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. The state supreme courts may be housed in government buildings that share other departments or alone in a dedicated courthouse. Regardless, they need quite a bit of room including a courtroom, lobby, a private chamber for the justices, meeting rooms, office for the law and support staff, and a law library.
How the Federal Supreme Court Fits In
Although the United States Supreme Court does not have any explicit power over the state supreme courts, they do decide whether or not to hear an appeal. The state supreme court must file a petition for a “writ of certiorari” then and only then if granted, the federal Supreme Court will honor the appeal.
The number of cases that are petitioned by the state supreme courts to be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court is minimal. This law number indicates the efficiency in which the state supreme courts are honoring the law and following precedent by correctly deciding the outcome of appeals.