the rule of the US law in the federal system


THE ROLE OF STATE LAW IN THE FEDERAL SYSTEM The Constitution specifically forbade the states from adopting certain kinds of laws (entering into treaties with foreign nations, coining money). Also, the Article VI Supremacy Clause barred state laws that contradicted either the Constitution or federal law. Even so, large parts of the legal system remained under state control. The Constitution had carefully specified the areas where Congress might enact legislation

Tenth Amendment to the Constitution (1791) made explicit that state law would control elsewhere: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.” There nonetheless remained considerable tension between the federal government and the states 

— over slavery, and ultimately over the right of a state to leave the federal union. The civil conflict of 1861–65 resolved both disputes. It also produced new restrictions on the state role within the legal system: Under the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), “No State shall… deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This amendment greatly expanded the federal courts’ ability to invalidate state laws. Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which forbade racial segregation in the Arkansas state school system, relied upon this “equal protection clause.” Beginning in the mid-20th century, 

a number of the trends outlined above — the rise of the administrative state, a more forceful and expansive judicial interpretation of due process and equal protection, and a similar expansion of Congress’ power to regulate commerce — combined to enhance the federal role within the legal system. Even so,

much of that system remains within the state domain. While no state may deny a citizen any right guaranteed by the federal Constitution, many interpret their own constitutions as bestowing even more generous rights and privileges. State courts applying state law continue to decide most contractual disputes. The same is true of most criminal cases, and of civil tort actions. Family law, including such matters as marriage and divorce, is almost exclusively a state matter. For most Americans most of the time, the legal system means the police officers and courts of their own state, or of the various municipalities and other political subdivisions within that state. This introduction offers a mere thumbnail sketch of the legal system. The remainder of the volume affords greater detail, flavor, and understanding. Chapters 1 and 2 describe respectively how the federal and state court systems have been organized, while Chapter 3 explains at length the complex question of jurisdiction. The chapter necessarily

delineates of the border ders between the federal and state courts but it also explores the question of who may sue, and of the kinds of cases courts will hear. Chapter 4 expands the focus from the courts to the groups who appear before them. 

The practice of law in the United States is studied, and the typical litigants described. The chapter also explains the role played by interest groups that press particular cases to advance their social and political agendas. Chapter 5 details how the courts handle criminal cases while Chapter 6 turns the focus to civil actions. Chapter 7 describes how federal judges are selected. The final chapter explores how certain judicial decisions — those of higher courts especially — can themselves amount to a form of policymaking and thus further entwine the judiciary in a complex relationship with the legislative and executive branches

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