Let me try to make myself clear. If a federal court enjoins enforcement of a state law, than those who know of the injunction can be held in contempt of court. However, state courts are under no obligation to follow the opinions of the federal court of appeals for their circuit. These are often very influential, however.
Now, I put out a hypothetical worst case scenario where a person could be convicted in state court under a law the federal circuit court of appeals thinks is unconstitutional. The defendant could ask for a federal writ of habeas corpus
but it may be appropriately denied. The U.S. Supreme Court has so held many times and routinely reverses the 9th Circuit and, to a lesser extent, the 3rd and 6th Circuits. What follows is a bit of boilerplate that I use to defend against typical habeas corpus
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (hereinafter “AEDPA”) controls the scope of review of state court decisions filed after its effective date (April 24, 1996). Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997) AEDPA prohibits federal courts from granting writs of habeas corpus on claims previously adjudicated on the merits in state court unless that adjudication:
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or In reviewing a state court decision, a federal habeas court must first determine whether there was a controlling rule prescribed by the Supreme Court and then decide whether the state court legal determination was an objectively unreasonable application of that rule. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 402-413 (2000) (Part II of Justice O’Connor’s opinion, joined by majority of the Court). If there is no controlling rule, the federal court must determine whether the state court’s decision resulted from an objectively unreasonable application of U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Id.
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. §2254(d)(1) and (d)(2).
For a state to have acted contrary to clearly established precedent, the Supreme Court must have decided a case differently which has “materially indistinguishable facts” than the state case. Id. at 413. The federal habeas court must determine the governing legal standard by referring to holdings, not dicta, of the Supreme Court which clearly established the federal law governing state court trials at the time of the state court’s ruling. Williams, 529 U.S. at 403-413; Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 127 (2006) (holding the Ninth Circuit improperly cited its own precedent in determining state court had unreasonably applied clearly established Supreme Court precedent); see also Ramdass v. Angelone, 530 U.S. 156 (2000).
The Supreme Court has reiterated that "an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law." Renico v. Lett, __ U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 1862, 176 L.Ed.2d 678 (2010). A federal court cannot issue a writ simply because, by it’s own independent judgment, it thinks the state court applied the federal law incorrectly; instead, the state’s application of federal law must be “objectively unreasonable.” Id. The “objectively unreasonable” standard is higher even than the “clear error” standard. Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003).
The Supreme Court has emphasized the purpose of AEDPA, “The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 modified a federal habeas court’s role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas ‘retrials’ and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002). To that end, even where the state court summarily denies a claim, the burden remains on the petitioner to show the state court had no reasonable basis for denying relief. Harrington v. Richter, __ U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 770, 784, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011).
The AEDPA standard was intended to be “difficult to meet.” Id. at 786. A writ should issue only “where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court’s decision conflicts with this Court’s precedents.” Id.
I apologize for the length and fear we may be drifting off topic.