That Time Justice Breyer Certified A Question to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and then Reversed Circuit Judge Alito

April 4th, 2014

Last year in  Trevino v. Thaler, Justice Breyer rejected a call to certify a question to a state court, noting that he would never do it again. Justice Alito knew exactly what case he was talking about.

MR. OLDHAM: Well, Your Honor, I think you could do one of two things: You could always certify the question to the Court of Criminal Appeals if you thought that the question — that the answer turns on what the Texas procedures are and that the parties disagree with them.

JUSTICE BREYER: I tried that once in a case involving Pennsylvania and the result was such that I resolved never to do it again. (Laughter.)

JUSTICE BREYER: But — but don’t say never. All right. So one thing we got -­

JUSTICE ALITO: That was a case in which -­ that was the case in which the Court unwisely reversed a certain Third Circuit decision. (Laughter.)

At the time, I noted that I didn’t have time to find the case. Fortunately, reader David W. has come through.

The case was Fiore v. Warden, where Justice Breyer certified a question to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and after the response, reversed Circuit Judge Alito.

Those sting, huh.