Michigan v. Long

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463 U.S. 1032 (1983), argued 23 Feb. 1983, decided 6 July 1983 by vote of 6 to 3; O’Connor for the Court, Blackmun concurring, Brennan, Marshall, and Stevens in dissent. The Supreme Court's most recent development of the “independent and adequate state grounds” doctrine arose from a Michigan Supreme Court case holding that both the federal Constitution's Fourth Amendment and the state constitution's counterpart proscribed the search of an automobile. State court opinions like Long are often ambiguous about which constitutional provision forms the foundation of their holding. In Long, the Supreme Court announced a new presumption of state dependence on federal law, declaring that it will assume the state court relied on federal law when the state court decision “fairly appears to rest primarily on federal law, or to be interwoven with federal law and when the adequacy and independence of any possible state law ground is not clear from the face of the opinion” (pp. 1040–1041). Only when a state court's opinion or judgment incorporates a “plain statement” that “the federal cases are being used only for the purpose of guidance, and do not themselves compel the result that the court has reached” and that the decision rests on “bona fide separate, adequate, and independent” state grounds will the Supreme Court decline to undertake direct review of the decision (p. 1041).

The Long decision has generated substantial debate. Some contend that it preserves the integrity and uniformity of federal law by enabling the Supreme Court to review state decisions arguably interpreting the federal Constitution, avoids the potential for issuing advisory opinions, shows respect for the independence of the state courts by abandoning the Court's prior “ad hoc” approach to state court decisions, and provides an opportunity for state courts to develop state law. Others argue that Long reflects the Supreme Court's animosity to expansion of individual rights, noting that presumptive jurisdiction extends only to those cases in which a state court affirms rights but not to those in which it rejects rights claims.

Shirley S. Abrahamson and Charles G. Curtis, Jr.

Subjects: Law.

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