Department or Division of Highest State Court

Congress has given the U.S. Supreme Court the power to review final judgments or decrees rendered by the highest court of a State[i]  Pursuant to federal jurisdictional statute, final judgments or decrees rendered by the highest court of a state in which a decision could be had, may be reviewed by the Supreme Court.[ii]

A department or division of highest state court is not considered the highest court in which relief could be had for purposes of further review in the U.S. Supreme Court.[iii] In Gorman v. Washington University, 316 U.S. 98 (U.S. 1942), the court held that a decision rendered by the division of highest state court is not considered to be rendered by the highest court of a state because the decision and judgment rendered by the division could be set aside by the state supreme court sitting en banc.  A judgment of a division of highest court in a case involving a federal question is susceptible of review by the full court sitting en banc.

However, in Local 174, Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers of Am. v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95 (U.S. 1962), the court held that a judgment rendered by a department of highest state court is reviewable in the U.S. Supreme Court if a rehearing en banc before the highest state court is not granted.  The court observed that the decision of a department becomes a final judgment of the highest state court unless within a specified time a petition for rehearing has been filed or a rehearing has been ordered on the court’s own initiative.  If the department of the highest state court consists of at least an absolute majority of the court, and the decision in the case is unanimous, then the decision is considered the final word of the state’s highest court.[iv]

In Gotthilf v. Sills, 375 U.S. 79 (U.S. 1963), the court observed that a judgment of the New York Appellate Division affirming an order granting body execution against a judgment debtor is not a judgment rendered by the highest court of a State in which a decision could be had, restricting the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of state decisions to such judgments.

[i] Howell v. Mississippi, 543 U.S. 440 (U.S. 2005)

[ii] 28 USCS § 1257

[iii] Gorman v. Washington University, 316 U.S. 98 (U.S. 1942)

[iv] Local 174, Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers of Am. v. Lucas Flour Co., 369 U.S. 95 (U.S. 1962)


Inside Department or Division of Highest State Court