Final Judgments of Highest State Courts-Generally

The Supreme Court of the United States may exercise jurisdiction to review the decisions of the state court.  However, before filing a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court, the petitioner shall obtain a final decree from the highest court of the state.[i]  This is a mandatory requisite in the absence of an express constitutional or statutory provision to the contrary.[ii]  Thus, in order to invoke the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, there should not only be a decree or order from the state court but the judgment must be a final one.  A defendant has a time frame of 90 days from the judgment of the state court of last resort to file a petition for a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court.[iii]

The requirement of finality has not been met merely because “the major issues in a case have been decided and only a few loose ends remain to be tied up — for example, where liability has been determined and all that needs to be adjudicated is the amount of damages.”[iv]

Whether judgment of state court possesses “finality requisite to reviewability” by Supreme Court depends upon whether there is anything more to be decided and that there has been effective determination of litigation.[v]

Where state court decision was appealed to United States Supreme Court which dismissed appeal for lack of jurisdiction but gave no reason for its dismissal does not automatically imply that dismissal was based on lack of finality.  Moreover, the Supreme Court’s denial of petition for certiorari does not imply that state court judgment was not final.

[i] 28 U.S.C.A. § 1257(a)

[ii]Banks v. California, 395 U.S. 708 (U.S.1969)

[iii] U.S. Sup. Ct. R. 13.1

[iv] Republic Natural Gas Co. v. Oklahoma, 334 U.S. 62 (U.S. 1948)

[v] Richfield Oil Corp. v. State Bd. of Equalization, 329 U.S. 69 (U.S. 1946)


Inside Final Judgments of Highest State Courts-Generally