Federal Court Review of Arbitrary State Court Decisions

Part I of this Note argues that the Thompson, Logan, and Hicks cases can be read narrowly to deal primarily with concern about protecting specific constitutional guarantees such as criminal procedural protections, equal protection guarantees, and first amendment freedoms. Arguably, in order to avoid dealing explicitly with the broader constitutional questions raised by the state decisions, the Court reversed the state decisions as arbitrary interpretations of state law. Part II argues that the rule against arbitrary state decisions suggested by Thompson, Logan, and Hicks is incompatible with federalism because it interferes with states’ ability to develop law over state law matters, to make final decisions over state law issues, and to divide law-making power between different branches of state government. Part III examines how broad applications of Thompson, Logan, and Hicks have intruded upon state power. In many of these cases, rather than constituting an arbitrary decision, the state decision could be equally well explained as a valid application or interpretation of state law. By reviewing the state decisionmaker’s decision, federal courts have not only imposed their own interpretation of state law on the state, but have also interfered with the division of power between state decisionmakers.