Response to Ann Woolhandler & Michael G. Collins, State Jurisdictional Independence and Federal Supremacy
In Montgomery v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court held that state prisoners have a constitutional right to relief from continued imprisonment if the prisoner’s conviction or sentence contravenes a new substantive rule of constitutional law. Specifically, the Court held that prisoners with such claims are constitutionally entitled to collateral relief in state court—at least if the state courts are open to other claims for collateral relief on the ground that their continued imprisonment is unlawful. In our article, The Constitutional Right to Collateral Post-Conviction Relief, we argued that, under two lines of Supreme Court decisions interpreting the Supremacy Clause, states are in fact required to open their courts to claims based on new substantive rules of constitutional law even if the states’ courts do not have jurisdiction to entertain collateral claims as a matter of state law.
In their recent article, State Jurisdictional Independence and Federal Supremacy, Professors Ann Woolhandler and Michael G. Collins dispute our reliance on these two lines of Supremacy Clause cases. Specifically, they argue that the Constitution, as originally understood and as interpreted throughout the nineteenth century, gives states discretion to control the jurisdiction of their own courts. This response briefly discusses Professors Woolhandler and Collins’s treatment of these two lines of Supremacy Clause cases, and explains why our previous reading of Montgomery holds.