The Supreme Court may honor an order or a certificate of a state court filed after its decision which states that the state court has necessarily passed on a specified federal question in coming to judgment, even though the record may not definitely show that a federal question has been presented to a state court for determination[i]
The certificate of a court of last resort of a state may not import a federal question into a record, where otherwise such question does not arise. The true function of a certificate or statement of a state court, by way of amendment of, or addition to, the record, is to aid in the understanding of the record, to clarify it by defining the federal question with reasonable precision and by showing how the question was raised and decided, so that the Court upon the record as thus clarified may be able to see that the federal question was properly raised and was necessarily determined.[ii] However, if the record clearly shows that certain federal questions have arisen and been decided, no certificate is necessary.[iii]
A certificate of the highest court of a state removes any objection that a federal question was raised too late under the local procedure to the effect that it necessarily considered the Federal question to sustain a writ of error from the Supreme Court of the United States.[iv]
The existence of a federal question cannot be established by the certificate alone.[v] A certificate does not foreclose the Supreme Court from determining if a federal question has actually been presented to and ruled on by the state courts.[vi] The certificate is effective only when it is incorporated in the record.[vii] Generally, if consistent with the record, the certificate of the entire court is sufficient to sustain Supreme Court jurisdiction.[viii]
[i] Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 47 S. Ct. 641, 71 L. Ed. 1095 (1927)
[ii] Honeyman v. Hanan, 300 U.S. 14 (U.S. 1937)
[iii]Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 506, 21 How. 506, 16 L. Ed. 169, 1858 WL 9351 (1858).
[iv] Cincinnati, Portsmouth, Big Sandy & Pomeroy Packet Co. v. Bay, 200 U.S. 179 (U.S. 1906)
[v] Newport Light Co. v. City of Newport, 151 U.S. 527, 14 S. Ct. 429, 38 L. Ed. 259 (1894).
[vi] Honeyman v. Hanan, 300 U.S. 14, 57 S. Ct. 350, 81 L. Ed. 476 (1937).
[vii] Yazoo & M.V.R. Co. v. Adams, 180 U.S. 41, 21 S. Ct. 256, 45 L. Ed. 415 (1901).
[viii] Charleston Federal Sav. & Loan Ass’n v. Alderson, 324 U.S. 182, 65 S. Ct. 624, 89 L. Ed. 857 (1945).