Senate Bill No. 88
(By Senators Wooton, Anderson, Bowman, Buckalew, Deem, Dittmar,
Grubb, Miller, Oliverio, Ross, Schoonover, Scott, Wagner and Yoder)
[Originating in the Committee on the Judiciary;
reported January 17, 1996.]
A BILL to amend and reenact article one-a, chapter fifty-one of the
code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one,
as amended, relating to the uniform certification of questions
of law act; defining certain terms; authorizing the supreme
court of appeals to certify questions of law to other
jurisdictions; authorizing the supreme court of appeals to
answer and to reformulate questions of law certified to it
from other jurisdictions; providing for certification orders
and for the delivery of records to the receiving court;
setting forth contents of certification order; providing for
notification to the certifying court and establishing
preference for consideration of certified question;
establishing governing procedures; providing for a written opinion; allocating fees and costs; providing for severability
and construction of act; and setting forth a short title.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That article one-a, chapter fifty-one of the code of West
Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be
amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 1A. UNIFORM CERTIFICATION OF QUESTIONS OF LAW ACT.
As used in this article:
(1) "State" means a state of the United States, the District
of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or any territory or
insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United
(2) "Tribe" means a native American tribe, band or village
recognized by federal law or formally acknowledged by a state.
§51-1A-2. Power to certify.
The supreme court of appeals of West Virginia, on the motion
of a party to a pending cause or its own motion, may certify a
question of law to the highest court of another state or of a tribe
or of Canada, a Canadian province or territory, Mexico or a Mexican
(1) The pending cause involves a question to be decided under the law of the other state or of the tribe or of Canada, the
Canadian province or territory, Mexico or the Mexican state;
(2) The answer to the question may be determinative of an
issue in the pending cause; and
(3) The question is one for which no answer is provided by a
controlling appellate decision, constitutional provision or statute
of the other state or of the tribe or of Canada, the Canadian
province or territory, Mexico or the Mexican state.
§51-1A-3. Power to answer.
The supreme court of appeals of West Virginia may answer a
question of law certified to it by any court of the United States
or by the highest appellate court or the intermediate appellate
court of another state or of a tribe or of Canada, a Canadian
province or territory, Mexico or a Mexican state, if the answer may
be determinative of an issue in a pending cause in the certifying
court and if there is no controlling appellate decision,
constitutional provision or statute of this state.
§51-1A-4. Power to amend question.
The supreme court of appeals of West Virginia may reformulate
a question certified to it.
§51-1A-5. Certification order; record.
The court certifying a question shall issue a certification order and shall forward it to the designated receiving court.
Before responding to a certified question, the receiving court may
require the certifying court to deliver its record, or any portion
of the record, to the receiving court.
§51-1A-6. Contents of certification order.
(a) A certification order must contain:
(1) The question of law to be answered;
(2) The facts relevant to the question, showing fully the
nature of the controversy out of which the question arose;
(3) A statement acknowledging that the receiving court may
reformulate the question; and
(4) The names and addresses of counsel of record and
(b) If the parties cannot agree upon a statement of facts,
then the certifying court shall determine the relevant facts and
shall state them as a part of its certification order.
§51-1A-7. Notice; preference.
The supreme court of appeals of West Virginia, acting as the
receiving court, shall notify the certifying court of its
acceptance or rejection of the question; and in accordance with
notions of comity and fairness, it shall respond to an accepted
certified question as soon as practicable.
After the supreme court of appeals of West Virginia has
accepted a certified question, proceedings are governed by the
rules and statutes of this state governing briefs, arguments and
other appellate procedures. Procedures for certification from
this state to a receiving court shall be those provided in the
rules and statutes of the receiving forum.
The supreme court of appeals of West Virginia shall state in
a written opinion the law answering the certified question and
send a copy of the opinion to the certifying court, to counsel of
record and to unrepresented parties.
§51-1A-10. Cost of certification.
Fees and costs are the same as in civil appeals docketed
before the supreme court of appeals of West Virginia and shall be
equally divided between the parties unless otherwise ordered by
the certifying court.
If any provision of this article or its application to any
person, court or circumstance is held invalid, the invalidity
does not affect other provisions or applications of this article
which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this article are
This article shall be construed as to effectuate its general
purpose to make uniform the law of those jurisdictions which
§51-1A-13. Short title.
This article may be cited as the "Uniform Certification of
Questions of Law Act".