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51 Tex. L. Rev. 743 (1972-1973)
Binding Effect of Federal Declaratory Judgments on State Courts

handle is hein.journals/tlr51 and id is 765 raw text is: The Binding Effect of Federal
Declaratory Judgments on State Courts
John H. Martin
The Supreme Court long ago determined that under the suprem-
acy clause its interpretations of federal constitutional law are binding on
all inferior courts, state and federal.' The Court, however, has never held
that a state court is bound by a lower federal court judgment holding
a state statute unconstitutional. Similarly, no federal court has ever
found that such judgments are binding on state courts except as the doc-
trine of res judicata applies to the actual litigants.2  Moreover, by en-
acting the anti-injunction   statute3 and the three-judge court acts,4
Congress has carefully delimited the situations in which lower federal
courts may interfere with state enforcement of state statutes. As a
result, state courts have felt free to adopt, ignore, or modify lower
federal court determinations to whatever degree they desired.
The question of what binding effect to give federal court judg-
ments plays a key role in preserving the delicate balance within the fed-
eral system. If state courts are permitted to ignore federal constitu-
tional rulings with impunity, serious deprivations of individual con-
stitutional rights may result. On the other hand, if federal judgments
are given a broad binding effect, a single erroneous federal district
court declaration could block a whole set of constitutionally permissible
state criminal prosecutions, a result that jars with the Supreme Court's
concern for comity in federal-state court relations.
The binding effect accorded federal determinations in habeas
1. Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958). See, e.g., Henry v. City of Rock Hill,
376 U.S. 776 (1964).
2. See United States ex rel Lawrence v. Woods, 432 F.2d 1072, 1076 (7th Cir.
1970), cert. denied, 402 U.S. 983 (1971).
The term binding effect is defined here as a rule of law requiring state courts to
follow certain federal adjudications just as federal courts in diversity cases are bound
to follow state law determinations made by state courts, and just as any court is
bound by the principles of res judicata or collateral estoppel. Of course, a federal
injunction against state court proceedings binds state courts, but the binding effect
of an injunction refers to the direct equitable power of the federal court to interfere
with state court proceedings, rather than the more indirect binding effect of a rule
of law.
3. 28 U.S.C. § 2283 (1970).
4. Id. § 2281.


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