For example, say the Supreme Court moves to a new standard, are there examples where state courts decide not to follow along!?

Ultimately, I would love to have a large list of examples—but even just one example is helpful!

  • 2
    There was a little incident back in 1861, where the courts of eleven states decided not to follow the US Supreme Court for a while. You might have heard about it... May 26, 2022 at 5:16
  • I seem to recall there was once a case where a state court tried to effectively ignore a SCOTUS ruling, maybe a southern state in the Civil Rights era. It was something like: case of A vs. B, state court finds for A based on standard X. Cert to SCOTUS who reverses and remands saying, "no, use standard Y", under which it seemed clear that B would win. State court again finds for A based on a twisted interpretation YX of standard Y. Cert to SCOTUS, reverse and remand with more specific explanation YY of standard to use. State court again finds for A with interpretation YYX. May 26, 2022 at 5:59
  • After a couple iterations, I think SCOTUS gave up on telling the state court what standard to use, and issued them an order saying "just enter judgment for party B". I wish I could remember what the case was. May 26, 2022 at 6:00
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    Oh, here it is: NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Flowers, 377 U.S. 288 (1964). (I eventually found this comment by cpast.) Not to be confused with its more famous predecessor NAACP v. Alabama ex rel Patterson (1958), which was its first appearance before SCOTUS in which they articulated the overarching principle. May 26, 2022 at 6:25

2 Answers 2


State supreme courts are not allowed to defy binding supreme court precedents and are quickly slapped down if they do.

But not all U.S. Supreme Court rulings have that character.

For example, even if a state has rules of civil procedure which are verbatim identical to the federal rules of civil procedure, it does not have to follow the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of an identical rule.

For example, many states have rules of civil procedure 8, 9 and 12 which are verbatim identical to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8, 9 and 12. But, when the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted FRCP 8, 9, and 12 in a new way in cases known as Iqbal and Twombly, not all state courts adopted the new interpretation and this was not a defiance of binding U.S. Supreme Court precedent, because the U.S. Supreme Court's precedents only apply to federal laws and rules.

Similarly, many states have state constitutional rights in a bill of rights which are worded with language identical to that of parallel rights under the U.S. Constitution as amended. But, state courts don't always interpret that language in the same way that the U.S. Supreme Court does.

If the federal constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court is more protective of a right than the state constitution, then the U.S. Supreme Court interpretation sets a floor of protection (except in the small number of circumstances like the right to a civil jury trial, or the requirement that serious crimes be pre-approved by grand juries, where a federal right is not applicable to state and local governments).

But, if the state constitution is interpreted by the State Supreme Court in a manner more protective a right than the U.S. Supreme Court, this is allowed and does not conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of identical language in the United States Constitution.


It is not lawful for a state court to ignore US Supreme Court precedent. Failure to do so would be remedied by a case against the state court in a federal court.

The closest that comes to mind was a stunt by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in 2001 where he installed a sculpture of the bibilical Ten Commandments in the state judicial building. He was sued in Federal Court, lost the case and its appeal, refused to remove the sculpture, was over-ruled by the other justices for its removal, and was then removed from his position due to his failure to follow the rule of law.

Arkansas schools were de-segregated according to a Supreme Court ruling via using the 101st Airborne to enforce the ruling by President Eisenhower.

There may be edge cases that no one cared about at the time, but it is not possible to ignore Supreme Court rulings and "not follow along."

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