Paul Castiglione, policy director of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, caused some stir when he observed that the federal circuit court of appeals ruling against Illinois’s ban on concealed carry of firearms was not binding on the state legislature:
There was one surprise to come from Tuesday’s hearing for some lawmakers. It came when Paul Castiglione, with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, said his office believes the federal appeals court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the state legislature.
“Only the Illinois Supreme Court can declare a law, a statute from this body of this state to be unconstitutional,” Castiglione said at the hearing.
That was news to State Rep. Michael Zalewski.
“You kind of dropped a pretty big rhetorical bomb on some of us here,” Zalewski said.
If my understanding of the law is correct, Mr. Castiglione is correct on the general principle although probably incorrect in his articulation of it. Rulings of the U. S. Supreme Court are mandatory for all inferior courts, including state courts under the principle known as “incorporation”. Decisions from lower federal courts, including federal appeals courts, however, are not binding on state courts. The issue here is the hierarchy. Federal courts and state courts function within different hierarchies. Federal appeals court decisions are binding on other federal courts within their circuits. They are not binding on state courts.
I am not fanatical with respect to the Second Amendment. I’d be just as happy if it were replaced with a narrower statute. However, it is the law of the land and IMO Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois legislators and state’s attorneys offices have been incompetent in this matter. That doesn’t mean that Mr. Castiglione is wrong; it means that Illinois’s laws are likely to be declared unconstitutional if and when they make it to the U. S. Supreme Court and it would be better if all of the expense involved were spared by re-writing Illinois’s laws to meet constitutional muster.