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October 26, 2012
Vladeck on Collins & Nash on Federal Crimes in State Courts
Now available on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is an essay by Prof. Stephen Vladeck (American University) entitled Federal Crimes, State Courts, and Palmore. It reviews Michael G. Collins & Jonathan Remy Nash’s recent article, Prosecuting Federal Crimes in State Courts, 97 Va. L. Rev. 243 (2011). Steve’s review begins:
In 1973, the Supreme Court in Palmore v. United States upheld Congress’s creation of an “Article I” court in the District of Columbia—the D.C. Superior Court—against a claim that Congress lacked the power to invest non-Article III federal courts with the authority to entertain criminal prosecutions arising under federal law. One of the linchpins of Justice White’s analysis for the 8-1 majority was his observation that, “Very early in our history, Congress left the enforcement of selected federal criminal laws to state courts and to state court judges who did not enjoy the protections prescribed for federal judges in Art. III.” As White explained, if it did not violate Article III for Congress to allow state judges to entertain federal criminal prosecutions, then it would be far harder to understand why, in at least some circumstances, non-Article III federal criminal adjudication—especially in a tribunal acting as a quasi-state court— should not also be permissible.
And yet, as Michael G. Collins and Jonathan Remy Nash persuasively demonstrate in Prosecuting Federal Crimes in State Courts, the historical record to which Justice White alluded in Palmore is “sketchy at best.” Instead, Collins and Nash’s article offers a compelling mix of historical, legal, and policy-oriented explanations for why the scattershot exceptions from the earliest years of the Republic may in fact prove the rule—that state courts generally do not (and should not) have the power to entertain criminal prosecutions arising under federal law. And whereas Collins and Nash’s article comes in response to a series of recent proposals to expand the federal criminal jurisdiction of state courts, the true significance of their analysis may be the extent to which it deprives Palmore (and, as such, federal criminal adjudication in non-Article III federal territorial courts in general) of perhaps its strongest analytical underpinning.