Federal Courts scholarship often focuses on access to federal courts for the decision of federal claims. At the same time, many Federal Courts scholars insist that state courts must hear federal causes of action, even when the lower federal courts are open to the same claims—the very federal courts regarded by such scholars as preferable to state courts.
This Article takes issue with suggestions that the state courts have broad duties to entertain federal causes of action, whether statutory or constitutional. There is little early support for requiring state courts to entertain such claims and considerable evidence against it. In the twentieth century, however, the Supreme Court of the United States began to compel state courts to take jurisdiction of certain federal statutory actions—despite the absence of any explicit congressional requirement for states to do so—in a line of cases associated with Testa v. Katt. Neither the Supremacy Clause nor related arguments justify such compulsion. The Court also occasionally required state courts to provide certain constitutionally necessary remedies in a different line of cases associated with General Oil Co. v. Crain. The constitutionally compelled-remedies strand was based on a requirement that there be adequate remedies for certain federal constitutional violations rather than a Supremacy-based command that the states must provide the same causes of action that the federal courts provided (as under Testa v. Katt).
More recent decisions such as Haywood v. Drown and scholarly proposals following the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana threaten to submerge the Crain line of cases into the Testa line, thereby possibly requiring greater state court conformity with federal-court versions of causes of action raising constitutional claims. Such uniformity, however, would diminish the role of the states in fashioning different, yet constitutionally adequate, solutions to problems of governmental illegality. State variation may be all the more important in light of frequently voiced dissatisfaction with federal habeas corpus doctrines and with constitutional tort litigation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Increased state court duties thus will not necessarily enhance the enforcement of federal constitutional law, but might actually undermine it. Read More.