State Supreme Court in the United States
The court of last resort in state judicial systems. Almost every state calls this court the supreme court although several have other names such as the supreme court of appeals. Regardless of name, this court functions as the final appellate authority within the state system. It differs from the United States Supreme Court (Judicial Organization) in that many state supreme court judges are elected rather than appointed. There is some variation in the structure and jurisdiction of state supreme courts. They range in size from five to nine justices, and, like the U.S. Supreme Court, they generally sit en banc rather than in panels. The appellate jurisdiction of state supreme courts depends substantially on whether the system contains an intermediate appellate court. Where an intermediate court exists, the supreme court typically possesses extensive discretion over the cases it reviews. This discretionary jurisdiction allows state supreme courts essentially to control substantive law questions on their dockets. If the system does not have an intermediate court, the state supreme court provides the first level appellate function and is often required to review at least certain categories of cases.
Analysis and Relevance
State supreme courts have jurisdiction in all matters of state law and act as the final authority on matters involving the interpretation of the state constitution or state statutes. Accordingly, each functions to clarify state law through pronouncement of procedural and substantive principles. Such authority gives state supreme courts an extensive policy making role. In addition, state courts of last resort engage in the review of lower court actions and will, where necessary, correct errors made by inferior courts. Finally, state supreme courts typically have administrative responsibilities over the state judicial system as a whole. This includes basic management of budgetary matters and caseloads. State supreme courts also have authority to issue court rules that govern the operation of state courts, a role that commonly involves oversight of judicial discipline as well.
Notes and References
- Definition of State Supreme Court from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California