While an appellate court may have the opportunity to reverse any
individual trial judge every few years, I know that trial judges, in
their numerous workday rulings, reverse appellate courts every day.
- Gregory Kellam Scott, “Judge-Made Law: Constitutional Duties and Obligations Under the Separations of Powers Doctrine,” 49 DEPAUL L. REV.517 (1999) (a former Colorado Supreme Court justice) via 39 Marc Galanter, “The Vanishing Trial: An Examination of Trials and Related Matters in Federal and State Courts,” 1 J. EMP. LEGAL STUDIES (2004) 459, 519.
Lets say hypothetically that lower courts en masse decide to ignore
Supreme Court decisions.
What legal alternatives are available to citizens if lower courts "Go
rogue" and decides to ignore a Supreme Court precedent?
Appeal is one option and if the violation is blatant, a swift per curiam bench slap is sometimes employed. See, e.g:
James v. City of Boise, 15-493, challenged the Idaho Supreme Court’s, um, idiosyncratic view that when the Supreme Court construes
federal law, it “does not have authority to limit the discretion of
state courts where such limitation is not contained in the statute.”
In just one-and-a-half pages (more than one-tenth of which consisted
of a single quote from the Court’s 1816 decision in Martin v. Hunter’s
Lessee) the Court clarified that “[t]he Idaho Supreme Court, like any
other state or federal court, is bound by this Court’s interpretation
of federal law.” Some have speculated that this case is a shot across
the bow of the Alabama Supreme Court. The implications of James will
become clearer in the future, once we know what has actually happened.
- John Elwood at SCOTUS Blog (links in original omitted).
Is there any punishment higher courts can hand down to lower courts
for ignoring their decisions?
Not really. But, a judicial discipline body in state court systems sometimes intervenes. Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, now a U.S. Senate candidate, was removed from office twice (he was re-elected in between) for defying clear U.S. Supreme Court precedents openly.
Also, the ACLU in both Mississippi and Colorado amassed convincing evidence of flagrant and widespread instances where municipal judges, who are more subject to political authority, were routinely disregarding the law in the past year. Both resigned with the attention and in the Mississippi case the municipal court involved was actually abolished entirely.
Injunctions from federal courts aimed at civil rights violating practices in the court system (e.g. not releasing people free on bond pending trial for non-payment of an administration fee, or repeat mistaken identity arrests not brought promptly to court attention) usually target the law enforcement or prosecuting attorneys' involvement in asking for the relief, rather than the court itself.