Certify a Question to the Supreme Court
General Laws 1956 9-24-27 provides in pertinent part that:
"Whenever in any proceedings . . . in the Superior Court . . .any question of law shall arise . . . which, in the opinion of the court . . . is of such doubt and importance and so affects the merits of the controversy that it ought to be determined by the Supreme Court before further proceedings, the court in which the cause is pending shall certify the question or motion to the Supreme Court for that purpose and stay all further proceedings until the question is heard and determined."
Regarding what is required of a trial justice before he or she can certify a question of such doubt and importance, our Supreme Court has"'consistently and repeatedly mandated that a trial or hearing justice should not certify a question of law to the Supreme Court unless and until he or she first carefully considers the question or questions sought to be certified and then, after having had the benefit of counsels' research and informed arguments, believes that he or she is unable to resolve the questions satisfactorily.'" Pierce v. Pierce, 770 A.2d 867, 870 (R.I. 2001) (quoting Bayview Towing, Inc. v. Stevenson, 676 A.2d 325, 329 (R.I. 1996));
See also In re Christopher S., No. 2000-212-A (R.I., filed May 15, 2001); State v. Carcieri, 730 A.2d 11 (R.I. 1999); Inman v. Whitehouse, No. 2001-138, Slip Op. at 2. (R.I., entered May 24, 2001) (order) (trial justice was obliged in the first instance to attempt to address the issues raised by the certified questions so that the Supreme Court upon review would have a complete record, including the learned trial justice's decision on the issues).
"By making a decision, after the benefit of counsels' research and arguments, and then certifying a question to the Supreme Court, the trial justice . . . creates a thorough record and provides the Supreme Court with the benefit of his or her reasoning and rationale." Pierce, 770 A.2d at 870.
Although our Supreme Court may accept a certified question when there are "critical and substantial reasons" therefor, In re Christopher S., supra, Slip Op. at 3 (citing State v. Jenison, 122 R.I. 142, 146, 405 A.2d 3, 5 (1979)), the Court has consistently declined to "'encourage short-circuiting of proper trial procedure by entertaining improperly certified questions' in instances in which certification was 'motivated primarily by the desire of the parties to reach promptly a final decision by our Supreme Court.'" Carcieri, 730 A.2d at 14 (quoting Richardson v. Bevilacqua, 115 R.I. 49, 53, 340 A.2d 118, 120 (1975)).
Moreover, certification is precluded once a trial justice considers and rules on a question of law in the context of a motion to dismiss. State v. Phillips, 430 A.2d 1061, 1062-63 (R.I. 1981).