Delving deeper into the roles of the supreme courts at the federal and state level.

Understandably there is a cloud of confusion surrounding the difference between the Federal Supreme Court and the State Supreme Court. You might find yourself asking questions regarding both like which court is more powerful, if something is decided at the federal level does it affect the states, or do the judges serve forever in those positions?

In this blog, we are going to touch up on all of these questions, ensuring a deeper understanding of both levels of courts systems and how they affect your life. Ultimately, having a better grasp as to why it is so important to understand these systems and what they mean.

Which Court Holds More Power?

Both levels are extremely powerful in regards to making decisions, but there is one that is more powerful than the other. Take a wild guess as to which it is. If you guessed the federal supreme court, then you guessed right! The federal supreme court is considered more powerful than the state supreme court. The federal level sets a precedent for the other levels in the justice system. It is rather interesting that the Constitution does not state as to how many supreme court justices are needed, but Congress makes the decision for the number of judges.

Do Decisions at the Federal Level affect the State Level?

Simply put, yes. The federal level decisions do affect the state level. If the state has decided something, it can be appealed and brought to the supreme court for a different decision. This also means that laws at the state level can be overturned by decisions in the US Supreme Court. Even in recent news this has been extremely prevalent in previous court cases being overturned in the supreme court. They are the final judicial arbiter in the judicial system.

Roe v. Wade was overturned with the supreme court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The original ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in all states and now with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization the decision allowed for the courts at the state level to decide if it should be legal or not.

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College was a Supreme Court decision, ending affirmative action at the college level. Affirmative action for enrollment was where universities and colleges were meant to have special consideration for groups that have been historically excluded. Decisions regarding the state levels are still underway.

How long are judges allowed to serve in the Supreme Courts?

This question is a bit more difficult to answer because each state has different rules. Judges within the state of New Jersey have no limits on their term besides having to retire at the age of 70. Other states have different rules regarding the amount of years and terms for their judges in their supreme courts.

At the federal level, judges are allowed to serve for life once appointed. This means that the only way a Supreme Court judge’s term ends is to retire, die, or be impeached. Being impeached means that a crime has been committed, it is then brought to the House of Representatives where they will be formally charged. If they are convicted in the Senate impeachment trial, they are then removed from their position. | Length of terms of state supreme court justices

Why is it Important to know this?

Having a deeper understanding as to what and who is making major decisions that affect your life is why it is so important. Following these cases, the people involved, and reasoning behind their decisions is extremely important to grasp and understand. Being able to apply this knowledge can allow for one to advocate for the causes that they believe in. Continue to join us on our road of advocacy and become a strong advocate yourself!

About the Author: Matthew Skibniewski is currently an intern at the Lesniak Institute and The Outreach Department of The Governor’s Office. Matthew is a PR/Social Media Intern, Outreach Intern, and current student at Kean University studying Public Administration.