Power is conferred to the U.S. Supreme Court to review final judgments or decrees rendered by the highest court of a state. The U.S. Supreme Court can review a decision where any right is specially set up or claimed under the Constitution or treaties or statutes of the U.S.. “Final judgments or decrees rendered by the highest court of a state in which a decision could be made, may be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court by writ of certiorari where the validity of a treaty or statute of the U.S. is drawn in question.”[i]
The U.S. Supreme Court refuses to consider any federal law challenge to a state court decision unless the federal claim was either addressed by or properly presented to the state court.[ii] The records produced before the court must show that a claim under a federal statute or the federal constitution was presented in the state courts. Also that state court appraised the nature or substance of the federal claim at the time and in the manner required by the state law.[iii] Not only that a federal question was presented for decision to the highest court of the state having jurisdiction but that its decision of the federal question was necessary to the determination of the issue, and that it was actually decided or that the judgment as rendered could not have been given without deciding it.[iv] What is required is that some title, right, privilege, or immunity is specially set out or claimed under the Constitution, treaties, or statutes of the U.S., or has been necessarily called to the attention of the state court in some proper way.
However it is not essential to cite a specific provision of the Constitution or statute, although it is essential that an issue under the U.S. Constitution or a federal statute has been necessarily raised before the state courts. The records presented must show that a claim under a federal statute or the federal Constitution has been presented in a state court. Additionally, records must show that court has been appraised of the nature or substance of the federal claim.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court is not required to review a case coming from a state court if the federal issues have not been presented with sufficient clarity or definiteness. For effective adjudication clarity of records presented is essential.
Right of action and defense based on U.S. constitution and U.S. laws are federal questions. However, in reviewing state court decision the U.S. Supreme Court is not bound by the decision of the state court.
However, when the records shows that a federal question has been properly presented according to state practice, the U.S. Supreme Court will not further inquire into the matter. Moreover, there should be specific pleading to the effect that statute is repugnant to the U.S. Constitution to show that the challenge is based on the U.S. constitution and not of state constitution. What is essential is that the pleading should be specific on the federal question; otherwise the U.S. Supreme Court may assume that challenge is based on state constitution and no federal question is involved.
[i] 28 USCS § 1257(a)
[ii] Howell v. Mississippi, 543 U.S. 440 (U.S. 2005)
[iii] Dyer v. Ponte, 749 F.2d 84 (1st Cir. Mass. 1984)
[iv] De Saussure v. Gaillard, 127 U.S. 216 (U.S. 1888)