Reply To: In denying Snyder petition, Supreme Court upholds Sixth Circuit ruling

Robin Vander Wall
Robin Vander Wall

What it means is that if there are any restrictions or requirements in Tennessee that are similar to those in Michigan, they should be challenged. If they are challenged in federal district court in Tennessee, that court will have to apply the Sixth Circuit’s opinion.

It’s a pyramid. The entire federal system is a gigantic pyramid. There are three levels: 1) District (lowest), 2) Circuit (middle), 3) Supreme (highest). Every case must pass through the first two levels before there’s even a chance at the last (and that’s a very slim chance, indeed).

By jurisdiction, federal District courts can only decide constitutional questions concerning state laws at the state level. Each state has a different number of districts depending on population size. So a decision by a federal court in Colorado concerning the Colorado registration scheme is ONLY binding in Colorado. No place else.

There are 13 federal Circuit Courts and they are arranged geographically with two exceptions (the District of Columbia Circuit and what’s called the federal district). The remaining 10 Circuits are each composed of a number of states, most of which are contiguous to each other (connected by a common border). Decisions of the federal Circuit courts are binding on the states within their pre-defined area of geographic jurisdiction. So a decision by, for example, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will automatically be binding in every state underneath its jurisdiction (those states are Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming). NO STATE belongs to more than ONE Circuit.

There is one U.S. Supreme Court over ALL the federal courts below. A decision by the Supreme Court is binding on ALL Circuits, ALL districts, and ALL states in the nation (to include their own derivative state courts).