Manatt Appellate Co-Chair Discusses Certified Question Procedure
"Federal Appellate Judges Seek State Supreme Court Help in Labor Case"
August 20, 2012 - Manatt's Benjamin Shatz, co-chair of the firm's Appellate Practice, spoke to the Daily Journal about the certified question procedure, which allows one court to send a formal request to one of its sister courts asking for an opinion on a question of law.
The Daily Journal reports that a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent a wage-and-hour class action case back to the California Supreme Court, asking the state high court to decide a matter of first impression in the case that involves exemptions under a state labor code wage order, minimum wage payments and late wage payments. The circuit panel used the certified question procedure, following rules developed by the state Supreme Court to let federal appellate panels query their state counterparts.
In its decision to send back the case, the panel wrote that, because the case concerns complex state law issues and because significant policy implications would affect many employers and employees throughout the state, it thinks the Supreme Court of California is better placed to decide.
Shatz defended the certified question procedure despite the inefficiencies it involves in delays and in requiring counsel to argue their case in two forums. "It makes more sense to allow states to develop their own law," he said. "These certified questions involve big issues. The inefficiencies exist for a good reason: the need to get the law right."