|Michigan v. Long
413 Mich. 461, 320 N.W.2d 866, reversed and remanded.
[ O'Connor ]
[ Blackmun ]
[ Brennan ]
[ Stevens ]
Michigan v. Long
CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MICHIGAN
JUSTICE STEVENS, dissenting.
The jurisprudential questions presented in this case are far more important than the question whether the Michigan police officer's search of respondent's car violated the Fourth Amendment. The case raises profoundly significant questions concerning the relationship between two sovereigns -- the State of Michigan and the United States of America.
The Supreme Court of the State of Michigan expressly held
that the deputies' search of the vehicle was proscribed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and art 1, § 11 of the Michigan Constitution.
413 Mich. 461, 472-473, 320 N.W.2d 866, 870 (1982) (emphasis added). [p1066] The state law ground is clearly adequate to support the judgment, but the question whether it is independent of the Michigan Supreme Court's understanding of federal law is more difficult. Four possible ways of resolving that question present themselves: (1) asking the Michigan Supreme Court directly, (2) attempting to infer from all possible sources of state law what the Michigan Supreme Court meant, (3) presuming that adequate state grounds are independent unless it clearly appears otherwise, or (4) presuming that adequate state grounds are not independent unless it clearly appears otherwise. This Court has, on different occasions, employed each of the first three approaches; never until today has it even hinted at the fourth. In order to "achieve the consistency that is necessary," the Court today undertakes a reexamination of all the possibilities. Ante at 1039. It rejects the first approach as inefficient and unduly burdensome for state courts, and rejects the second approach as an inappropriate expenditure of our resources. Ante at 1039-1040. Although I find both of those decisions defensible in themselves, I cannot accept the Court's decision to choose the fourth approach over the third -- to presume that adequate state grounds are intended to be dependent on federal law unless the record plainly shows otherwise. I must therefore dissent.
If we reject the intermediate approaches, we are left with a choice between two presumptions: one in favor of our taking jurisdiction, and one against it. Historically, the latter presumption has always prevailed. See, e.g., Durley v. Mayo, 351 U.S. 277, 285 (1956); Stembridge v. Georgia, 343 U.S. 541, 547 (1952); Lynch v. New York ex rel. Pierson, 293 U.S. 52 (1934). The rule, as succinctly stated in Lynch, was as follows:
Where the judgment of the state court rests on two grounds, one involving a federal question and the other not, or if it does not appear upon which of two grounds the judgment was based, and the ground independent of a federal question is sufficient in itself to sustain it, this [p1067] Court will not take jurisdiction. Allen v. Arguimbau, 198 U.S. 149, 154, 155; Johnson v. Rusk, [137 U.S. 300, 306, 307]; Wood Mowing & Reaping Machine Co. v. Skinner, [139 U.S. 293, 295, 297]; Consolidated Turnpike Co. v. Norfolk & Ocean View Ry. Co., 228 U.S. 596, 599; Cuyahoga River Power Co. v. Northern Realty Co., 244 U.S. 300, 302, 304.
Id. at 54-55. The Court today points out that, in several cases, we have weakened the traditional presumption by using the other two intermediate approaches identified above. Since those two approaches are now to be rejected, however, I would think that stare decisis would call for a return to historical principle. Instead, the Court seems to conclude that, because some precedents are to be rejected, we must overrule them all. [n1]
Even if I agreed with the Court that we are free to consider as a fresh proposition whether we may take presumptive jurisdiction over the decisions of sovereign States, I could not agree that an expansive attitude makes good sense. It appears to be common ground that any rule we adopt should show "respect for state courts, and [a] desire to avoid advisory opinions." Ante at 1040. And I am confident that all Members of this Court agree that there is a vital interest in the sound management of scarce federal judicial resources. All of those policies counsel against the exercise of federal jurisdiction. They are fortified by my belief that a policy of judicial restraint -- one that allows other decisional bodies to have the last word in legal interpretation until it is truly necessary for this Court to intervene -- enables this Court to make its most effective contribution to our federal system of government.
The nature of the case before us hardly compels a departure from tradition. These are not cases in which an American citizen has been deprived of a right secured by the United [p1068] States Constitution or a federal statute. Rather, they are cases in which a state court has upheld a citizen's assertion of a right, finding the citizen to be protected under both federal and state law. The attorney for the complaining party is an officer of the State itself, who asks us to rule that the state court interpreted federal rights too broadly and "overprotected" the citizen.
Such cases should not be of inherent concern to this Court. The reason may be illuminated by assuming that the events underlying this case had arisen in another country, perhaps the Republic of Finland. If the Finnish police had arrested a Finnish citizen for possession of marihuana, and the Finnish courts had turned him loose, no American would have standing to object. If instead they had arrested an American citizen and acquitted him, we might have been concerned about the arrest, but we surely could not have complained about the acquittal, even if the Finnish court had based its decision on its understanding of the United States Constitution. That would be true even if we had a treaty with Finland requiring it to respect the rights of American citizens under the United States Constitution. We would only be motivated to intervene if an American citizen were unfairly arrested, tried, and convicted by the foreign tribunal.
In this case, the State of Michigan has arrested one of its citizens and the Michigan Supreme Court has decided to turn him loose. The respondent is a United States citizen as well as a Michigan citizen, but since there is no claim that he has been mistreated by the State of Michigan, the final outcome of the state processes offended no federal interest whatever. Michigan simply provided greater protection to one of its citizens than some other State might provide or, indeed, than this Court might require throughout the country.
I believe that, in reviewing the decisions of state courts, the primary role of this Court is to make sure that persons who seek to vindicate federal rights have been fairly heard. That belief resonates with statements in many of our prior cases. [p1069] In Abie State Bank v. Bryan, 282 U.S. 765 (1931), the Supreme Court of Nebraska had rejected a federal constitutional claim, relying in part on the state law doctrine of laches. Writing for the Court in response to the Nebraska Governor's argument that the Court should not accept jurisdiction because laches provided an independent ground for decision, Chief Justice Hughes concluded that this Court must ascertain for itself whether the asserted nonfederal ground independently and adequately supported the judgment "in order that constitutional guaranties may appropriately be enforced." Id. at 773. He relied on our earlier opinion in Union Pacific R. Co. v. Public Service Comm'n of Missouri, 248 U.S. 67 (1918), in which Justice Holmes had made it clear that the Court engaged in such an inquiry so that it would not "be possible for a State to impose an unconstitutional burden" on a private party. Id. at 70. And both Abie and Union Pacific rely on Creswill v. Knights of Pythias, 225 U.S. 246, 261 (1912), in which the Court explained its duty to review the findings of fact of a state court "where a Federal right has been denied."
Until recently, we had virtually no interest in cases of this type. Thirty years ago, this Court reviewed only one. Nevada v. Stacher, 346 U.S. 906 (1953). Indeed, that appears to have been the only case during the entire 1953 Term in which a State even sought review of a decision by its own judiciary. Fifteen years ago, we did not review any such cases, although the total number of requests had mounted to three. [n2] Sometime during the past decade, perhaps about [p1070] the time of the 5-to-4 decision in Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., 433 U.S. 562 (1977), our priorities shifted. The result is a docket swollen with requests by States to reverse judgments that their courts have rendered in favor of their citizens. [n3] I am confident that a future Court will recognize the error of this allocation of resources. When that day comes, I think it likely that the Court will also reconsider the propriety of today's expansion of our jurisdiction.
The Court offers only one reason for asserting authority over cases such as the one presented today:
an important need for uniformity in federal law [that] goes unsatisfied when we fail to review an opinion that rests primarily upon federal grounds and where the independence of an alleged state ground is not apparent from the four corners of the opinion.
Ante at 1040 (emphasis omitted). Of course, the supposed need to "review an opinion" clashes directly with our oft-repeated reminder that "our power is to correct wrong judgments, not to revise opinions." Herb v. Pitcairn, 324 U.S. 117, 126 (1945). The clash is not merely one of form: the "need for uniformity in federal law" is truly an ungovernable engine. That same need is no less present when [p1071] it is perfectly clear that a state ground is both independent and adequate. In fact, it is equally present if a state prosecutor announces that he believes a certain policy of nonenforcement is commanded by federal law. Yet we have never claimed jurisdiction to correct such errors, no matter how egregious they may be, and no matter how much they may thwart the desires of the state electorate. We do not sit to expound our understanding of the Constitution to interested listeners in the legal community; we sit to resolve disputes. If it is not apparent that our views would affect the outcome of a particular case, we cannot presume to interfere. [n4] [p1072]
Finally, I am thoroughly baffled by the Court's suggestion that it must stretch its jurisdiction and reverse the judgment of the Michigan Supreme Court in order to show "[r]espect for the independence of state courts." Ante at 1040. Would we show respect for the Republic of Finland by convening a special sitting for the sole purpose of declaring that its decision to release an American citizen was based upon a misunderstanding of American law?
I respectfully dissent.
1. A sampling of the cases may be found in the footnotes to my dissenting opinion in South Dakota v. Neville, 459 U.S. 553, 566 (1983). See also n. 4, infra.
2. In Commonwealth v. Dell Publications, Inc., 427 Pa. 189, 233 A.2d 840 (1967), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that the First and Fourteenth Amendments protected the defendant's right to publish and distribute the book "Candy." The Commonwealth petitioned to this Court, and we denied certiorari. 390 U.S. 948 (1968). In People v. Noroff, 67 Cal.2d 791, 433 P.2d 479 (1967), the Supreme Court of California held that the First and Fourteenth Amendments protected the defendant's right to distribute a magazine called "International Nudist Sun." The State petitioned to this Court, and we denied certiorari. 390 U.S. 1012 (1968). In State v. Franc, 165 Colo. 69, 437 P.2d 48 (1968), the Supreme Court of Colorado held that, under Colorado law, title in a certain piece of property should be quieted in a citizen. The State petitioned to this Court, and we denied certiorari. 392 U.S. 928 (1968).
3. This Term, we devoted argument time to Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491 (1983); Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983) (argued twice); Connecticut v. Johnson, 460 U.S. 73 (1983); Missouri v. Hunter, 459 U.S. 359 (1983); South Dakota v. Neville, 459 U.S. 553 (1983); Texas v. Brown, 460 U.S. 730 (1983); California v. Ramos, ante p. 992; Florida v. Casal, 462 U.S. 637 (1983); City of Revere v. Massachusetts General Hospital, ante p. 239; Oregon v. Bradshaw, 462 U.S. 1039 (1983); Illinois v. Andreas, ante p. 765; Illinois v. Lafayette, 462 U.S. 640 (1983), as well as this case. And a cursory survey of the United States Law Week index reveal that, so far this Term, at least 80 petitions for certiorari to state courts were filed by the States themselves.
4. In this regard, one of the cases overruled today deserves comment. In Minnesota v. National Tea Co., 309 U.S. 551 (1940), the Court considered a case much like this one -- the Minnesota Supreme Court had concluded that both the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Art. 9, § 1, of the Minnesota Constitution prohibited a graduated income tax on chainstore income. The state court stated that
th[e] provisions of the Federal and State Constitutions impose identical restrictions upon the legislative power of the state in respect to classification for purposes of taxation,
and "then adverted briefly to three of its former decisions which had interpreted" the state provision. 309 U.S. at 552-553. It then proceeded to conduct a careful analysis of the Federal Constitution. It could justly be said that the decision rested primarily on federal law. Cf. ante at 1042. The majority of the Court reasoned as follows:
Enough has been said to demonstrate that there is considerable uncertainty as to the precise grounds for the decision. That is sufficient reason for us to decline at this time to review the federal question asserted to be present, Honeyman v. Hanan, 300 U.S. 14, consistently with the policy of not passing upon questions of a constitutional nature which are not clearly necessary to a decision of the case.
309 U.S. at 556. The Court therefore remanded to the state court for clarification.
Today's Court rejects that approach as intruding unduly on the state judicial process. One might therefore expect it to turn to Chief Justice Hughes' dissenting opinion in National Tea. In a careful statement of the applicable principles, he made an observation that I find unanswerable:
The fact that provisions of the state and federal constitutions may be similar or even identical does not justify us in disturbing a judgment of a state court which adequately rests upon its application of the provisions of its own constitution. That the state court may be influenced by the reasoning of our opinions makes no difference. The state court may be persuaded by majority opinions in this Court or it may prefer the reasoning of dissenting judges, but the judgment of the state court upon the application of its own constitution remains a judgment which we are without jurisdiction to review. Whether in this case we thought that the state tax was repugnant to the federal constitution or consistent with it, the judgment of the state court that the tax violated the state constitution would still stand. It cannot be supposed that the Supreme Court of Minnesota is not fully conscious of its independent authority to construe the constitution of the State, whatever reasons it may adduce in so doing.