Judge Charles Burns Discusses The Relationship between State and Federal Court Systems in the United States

The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land in the United States of America, and creates a federal system of government.  Under this system, power is shared between the federal government and the state governments. As per Judge Charles Burns, both the federal government, as well as each of the state governments has their own court systems. On the whole, there are fifty-two court systems in the USA, one in each of the states, the local court system in the District of Columbia, and the federal court system. These court systems have multiple points of contact.

Judge Charles Burns briefly underlines the relationship between State and Federal Court Systems in the US

State and local courts of the U.S. have to honor both federal law and the laws of the other states. Firstly, the state courts are required to honor federal law in situations where state laws are in conflict with federal. Secondly, claims that arise under federal statutes can be tried in the state courts, where the Congress or Constitution hasn’t explicitly required that only federal courts can hear that kind of claim. Each and every state court is additionally obligated to respect the final judgments of courts in other states under the full faith and credit clause. For instance, a contract dispute resolved by a Texas court cannot be relitigated in Arkansas if the plaintiff wants to collect on the Texas judgment in Arkansas. The state courts ideally must take into account the laws of other states when making decisions on cases where two states have an interest. For example, if drivers from two different states collide in a third state, the state judges will consult the case decision of their own states involving conflicts of laws and, at times, decide that they must apply the laws of the other states as well.

Federal courts tend to consider state-law-based claims in case a case involves claims using both state and federal law. Claims based on federal laws shall allow the federal court to take jurisdiction over the case, which includes any state issues raised. In such cases, the federal court is known to exercise “pendent jurisdiction” over the state claims. Moreover, the Supreme Court shall also take appeals from a state court in certain cases; state law raises an important issue of federal law to be decided. For example, a convict on death row may claim that the selected method of execution in the state with the help of injection of drugs is unusually painful, raising an Eighth Amendment issue.

There is an expansive category of cases heard in federal courts that only concern the state legal issues, basically the cases that arise between citizens of different states. The federal courts are permitted to hear under their diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. Essentially, a citizen of New York might sue a New Jersey citizen over a contract dispute in federal court. However, if both are citizens of New York, the plaintiff would be limited to the state courts. In the opinion of Judge Charles Burns, the diversity jurisdiction was established in the Constitution due to concerns that local courts would be hostile toward people from other states and might require separate courts.