Randy Beck

Publication Date


Document Type

Survey Article


State courts interpreting state constitutions face the recurring issue of how much weight to afford Supreme Court of the United States precedent addressing comparable questions under the United States Constitution. At one end of the spectrum, many state courts routinely engage in what federal Judge Jeffrey Sutton calls “lockstepping,” importing federal doctrine wholesale into state decisional law. For a court engaged in lockstepping, concepts like freedom of speech or equal protection of the laws under a state constitution mean whatever the U.S. Supreme Court interprets them to mean under the federal Constitution, even if the state provision differs in potentially material ways from its federal counterpart. Lockstepping tempts state courts for reasons of simplicity and efficiency. Importing U.S. Supreme Court precedent into state decisional law eliminates the complexities that can arise when federal and state law diverge and avoids a potentially burdensome examination (often with little assistance from the briefs) of the history that led to adoption of a particular state constitutional provision.