Last Term’s decision in James v. City of Boise encapsulates the current civil rights turmoil and the legal system’s inadequate response to it. In James ̧ the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a decision in which the Idaho Supreme Court (1) awarded attorney’s fees against a civil rights plaintiff despite her credible claim of excessive police force and (2) denied that it was bound by U.S. Supreme Court decisions interpreting the federal statute authorizing the award. Although the Court in James reaffirmed the state courts’ well-settled duty to obey the Court’s decisions on federal law, this article shows that the duty rests on precedent that is shallow—consisting almost entirely of dicta—and murky in defining the legal source of the duty. This article contributes to the scholarship by examining the Court’s precedent in some detail and by proposing that even if state courts need not obey the Court’s decisions interpreting the federal constitution, they do have a duty to obey the Court’s decisions interpreting federal statutes.
Richard Henry Seamon, Supreme Court Supremacy in a Time of Turmoil: James v. City of Boise, 50 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 175 (2017).