7. Can federal courts hear matters of state law? And vice versa?
Federal trial court decisions are appealed to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals or via special writ to the US Supreme Court. Federal District Courts and Courts of Appeal cannot review decisions from state court cases. Also, state trial or appellate courts can never undertake appellate review of decisions from federal court cases. State trial court decisions are appealed to the state intermediate court of appeals or the state’s supreme court. There is, however, one exception to this rule. The US Supreme court may review decisions of state supreme courts. If the court’s decision appears to conflict with federal law, (such as a statute, treaty, or the US Constitution). US Supreme Court review of state supreme court decisions is most common when the state court upholds a state law that could potentially violate the appellant’s constitutional rights. In such a case, the US Supreme Court may issue a writ of certiorari or accept a request for appeal of the state Supreme Court’s decision by the losing party.
• Discussion: Why is it important that state appellate courts not hear appeals from federal trial courts? Why is it important to limit the ability of federal appellate courts from hearing appeals from state trial courts? Why is it important the US Supreme Court be able to hear appeals from state supreme courts? Is there an argument for expending the review authority of any of these courts?
• Practice Question: Nancy brings an action against the Georgia State Department of Revenue by suing the Commissioner Andrea. Andrea wins the civil lawsuit based upon an award of summary judgment. Nancy, unhappy with the result, believes that she lost the case because the court showed favor to Andrea as a state official. She does not believe that appealing the decision would do any good, so she files a request for appeal to the Federal Circuit court seeking to overturn the state court’s decision. Is this appeal procedure possible? Why or why not?