As far as I understand, when a federal court declares a federal statute unconstitutional, lower court simply adopts the same practice in the future and no repeal of the statute is required. But what if a state statute is declared unconstitutional in a federal court? Should state courts follow the precedent by the federal court?

1 Answer 1


Regardless of jurisdiction within the US, the courts have no power to compel repeal of a statute, which is a political process. (An overturned statute might be edited out of the code books, but actual repeal has to be done by the legislature). So it is never required to repeal a statute.

A statute becomes a legal nullity within the jurisdiction of the ruling court. State courts bind state courts, and federal courts bind federal courts. However, a SCOTUS ruling puts an end to any further discussion. Until SCOTUS speaks on a state issue, there is still room for disagreement. If a federal district court rules a city or state law unconstitutional, state courts do not have to obey that ruling. Even if a federal circuit court and a lower state court so rule, it is has to go to a court of final appeal. Once the state Supreme Court or US Supreme Court agrees, the question is resolved.

  • In short: Both the state and federal court ruling that state need to agree on the unconstitutionality of the statute to make it fully nullified. Is this correct?
    – xuhdev
    Oct 9, 2017 at 17:04
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    Also, any government entity that was a party to the lawsuit or had an officer sued in an official capacity for injunctive relief related to the lawsuit declaring the law unconstitutional would be bound. In the case of a criminal or regulatory law enforced by only one government (e.g. legislative boundaries enforced by the Secretary of State) that is a party to a federal lawsuit, no separate action would be needed to settle the issue.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 9, 2017 at 21:05
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    Also, can you give a reference?
    – xuhdev
    Oct 11, 2017 at 19:27

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