[ Breyer ]
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U.S. 321, 337.
FIORE v. WHITE, WARDEN, et al.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Petitioner Fiore and his codefendant Scarpone were convicted of operat[ing] a hazardous waste facility without a permit, Pa. Stat. Ann., Tit. 35, §6018.401(a), because their operation deviated significantly from the terms of the permit they possessed. Fiore appealed his conviction to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which affirmed; but Scarpone appealed his conviction to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which reversed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied further review of Fiores case, and his conviction became final. However, it subsequently affirmed the Commonwealth Courts decision in Scarpones case, finding that §6018.401(a) does not apply to those who posses a permit but deviate radically from the permits terms. After the Pennsylvania courts refused to reconsider Fiores identical conviction, he sought federal habeas relief, arguing, inter alia, that the Federal Constitution required that his conviction be set aside because his conduct was not criminal under §6018.401(a). The District Court granted his petition, but the Third Circuit reversed, primarily because it believed that state courts have no obligation to apply their decisions retroactively.
Held: To help determine the proper state-law predicate for this Courts determination of the federal constitutional questions raised here, the Court certifies to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court the question whether the interpretation of §6018.401(a) set forth in Scarpone v. Commonwealth, 535 Pa. 273, 279, 634 A. 2d 1109, 1112, states the correct interpretation of Pennsylvania law at the date Fiores conviction became final. Scarpone marked the first time that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had interpreted the statute. Because that authoritative interpretation came only after Fiores conviction became final, this Court must know whether the Scarpone construction stated the statutes correct understanding at the time Fiores conviction became final, or whether it changed the interpretation then applicable. Judgment and further proceedings in this case are reserved pending receipt of the Pennsylvania Supreme Courts response. Pp. 57.149 F.3d 221, question certified.
Breyer, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.