We granted a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court of Alabama to decide whether the Alabama courts' approval of the class action and the settlement agreement in this case, without affording all class members the right to exclude themselves from the class or the agreement, violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Alabama Supreme Court did not address this federal issue, and it is now apparent that petitioners have failed to establish that they properly presented the issue to that court. We therefore dismiss the writ as improvidently granted.
In 1992, respondent Charlie Frank Robertson filed a classaction suit in an Alabama trial court, alleging that Liberty National Life Insurance Company had fraudulently encouraged its customers to exchange existing health insurance policies for new policies that, according to Robertson, provided less coverage for cancer treatment. The trial court appointed Robertson as class representative and certified the
Petitioners, who had objected to the settlement in the trial court, appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed in an opinion addressing only state-law issues, see 676 So. 2d, at 1270-1274, and petitioners sought a writ of certiorari. We granted certiorari, 518 U.S. 1056 (1996), on the question whether the certification and settlement of this class-action suit (which petitioners characterize as primarily involving claims for monetary relief) violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the class members were not afforded the right to opt out of the class or the settlement.
With "very rare exceptions," Yee v. Escondido, 503 U.S. 519, 533 (1992), we have adhered to the rule in reviewing state-court judgments under 28 U. S. C. § 1257 that we will not consider a petitioner's federal claim unless it was either addressed by or properly presented to the state court that rendered the decision we have been asked to review. See Heath v. Alabama, 474 U.S. 82, 87 (1985); Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 217-219 (1983); McGoldrick v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 309 U.S. 430, 434 (1940). As petitioners concede here, the Alabama Supreme Court did not expressly address the question on which we granted certiorari. See Reply Brief for Petitioners 2-3, n. 1.
Nor have petitioners met their burden of showing that the issue was properly presented to that court. When the highest state court is silent on a federal question before us, we assume that the issue was not properly presented, Board of
But however we phrase our requirements, petitioners here have failed to satisfy them. Petitioners have done nothing to demonstrate that they complied with the applicable state rules for raising their federal due process claim before the Alabama Supreme Court,
Neither have petitioners satisfied us that they presented their federal claim with "fair precision and in due time." They argue that they raised their federal due process claim in their initial brief before the Alabama Supreme Court, and point to two pages of that brief discussing Brown v. Ticor, 982 F.2d 386 (CA9 1992), cert. dism'd as improvidently granted, 511 U.S. 117 (1994). Although Ticor is relevant to the federal claim they present here, see 982 F. 2d, at 392, they mentioned the case below in the context of an entirely different argument that the right to a jury trial under § 11 of the Alabama Constitution gives a plaintiff the right to opt out of a class-action settlement agreement. The discussion of "a federal case, in the midst of an unrelated argument, is insufficient to inform a state court that it has been presented with a claim." Board of Directors of Rotary Int'l, supra, at 550, n. 9.
Equally unavailing is petitioners' reliance on three other pages of their Alabama Supreme Court brief. Although that portion begins with a heading asserting that "[m]inimum due process requires that Class Members be given the right to opt out or exclude themselves from the class," see Brief for Appellants in Nos. 1931603 et al. (Sup. Ct. Ala.), p. 23, the discussion under that heading addresses only whether members of the class who were not Alabama residents had been afforded due process under Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Shutts, 472 U.S. 797 (1985). We therefore think that a court may fairly have read this section as arguing, as had the petitioner in Shutts, id., at 802, that the state court lacked personal jurisdiction over out-of-state class members, not the different and broader question of whether, if a state
Nor are petitioners helped by the fact that respondents addressed the federal due process issue raised here in their briefs as appellees in the Alabama Supreme Court.
Petitioners having thus failed to carry their burden of showing that the claim they raise here was properly presented to the Alabama Supreme Court, we will not reach the question presented. We need not decide in this case whether our requirement that a federal claim be addressed or properly presented in state court is jurisdictional or prudential, see Yee, 503 U. S., at 533; Bankers Life & Casualty Co., 486 U. S., at 79; Gates, 462 U. S., at 217-219, because even treating the rule as purely prudential, the circumstances here justify no exception.
The rule serves an important interest of comity. Bankers Life & Casualty Co., supra, at 79. As we have explained, "it would be unseemly in our dual system of government" to disturb the finality of state judgments on a federal ground that the state court did not have occasion to consider. Webb, 451 U. S., at 500 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, the rule affords state courts "an opportunity to consider the constitutionality of the actions of state officials, and, equally important, proposed changes" that could obviate any challenges to state action in federal court. Gates, supra, at 221-222. Here, the Alabama Supreme Court has an undeniable interest in having the opportunity to determine in the first instance whether its existing rules governing class-action settlements satisfy the requirements of due process, and whether to exercise its power to amend those rules to avoid potential constitutional challenges, see Ala. Const., § 6.11; 1971 Ala. Acts No. 1311.
Our traditional standard also reflects "practical considerations" relating to this Court's capacity to decide issues. Bankers Life & Casualty Co., supra, at 79. Requiring parties to raise issues below not only avoids unnecessary adjudication in this Court by allowing state courts to resolve issues
The only unusual consideration weighing in favor of reaching the question presented is that respondents failed to raise a timely objection to our granting the petition for certiorari, on the ground that the question presented in that petition had not been properly raised or addressed.
Accordingly, we dismiss the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted.
It is so ordered.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of Alabama by Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, and William H. Pryor, Jr., Deputy Attorney General; for the American Council of Life Insurance by Evan M. Tager and Phillip E. Stano; for Continental Casualty Company et al. by Herbert M. Wachtell, Meir Feder, Paul J. Bschorr, Stephen M. Snyder, Kelly C. Wooster, Elihu Inselbuch, Peter Van N. Lockwood, Joseph F. Rice, Joseph B. Cox, Jr., Rodney L. Eshelman, Donald T. Ramsey, Stuart Philip Ross, Sean M. Hanifan, Merril Hirsh, Steven Kazan, and Harry F. Wartnick; for Exxon Corporation by Charles W. Bender and John F. Daum; and for the National Association of Manufacturers et al. by Alfred W. Cortese, Jr., Kathleen L. Blaner, James C. Wilson, Jan S. Amundson, Quentin Riegel, and D. Dudley Oldham.
A brief of amici curiae was filed for the State of New York et al. by Dennis C. Vacco, Attorney General of New York, Barbara Gott Billet, Solicitor General, and Shirley F. Sarna, Nancy A. Spiegel, and Joy Feigenbaum, Assistant Attorneys General, Jeffrey L. Amestoy, Attorney General of Vermont, and Elliot Burg, Assistant Attorney General, Winston Bryant, Attorney General of Arkansas, Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General of California, Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General of Connecticut, Robert A. Butterworth, Attorney General of Florida, Alan G. Lance, Attorney General of Idaho, James E. Ryan, Attorney General of Illinois, Tom Miller, Attorney General of Iowa, Carla J. Stovall, Attorney General of Kansas, Frank J. Kelley, Attorney General of Michigan, Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General of Minnesota, Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, Attorney General of Missouri, Frankie Sue Del Papa, Attorney General of Nevada, Jeffrey R. Howard, Attorney General of New Hampshire, Michael F. Easley, Attorney General of North Carolina, Heidi Heitkamp, Attorney General of North Dakota, W. A. Drew Edmondson, Attorney General of Oklahoma, Thomas W. Corbett, Jr., Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Charles W. Burson, Attorney General of Tennessee, and Charles F. C. Ruff, Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia.
Petitioners also note that they raised their federal due process claim in their petition for rehearing before the Alabama Supreme Court. While the claim presented there closely resembles the one they ask us to review, see Appellants' Application for Rehearing and Brief in Support of Application for Rehearing in Nos. 1931603 et al. (Sup. Ct. Ala.), pp. 7-12, we have generally refused to consider issues raised clearly for the first time in a petition for rehearing when the state court is silent on the question, see Board of Directors of Rotary Int'l v. Rotary Club of Duarte, 481 U.S. 537,549-550 (1987);Hanson v.Denckla, 357 U. S.235, 244,n. 4 (1958); Radio Station WOW, Inc. v. Johnson, 326 U.S. 120, 128 (1945).
Nor is respondents' failure to object in accordance with Rule 15.2 excused by petitioners' failure to comply with this Court's Rule 14.1(g)(i), which requires a petitioner seeking review of a state-court judgment to specify, among other things, "when the federal questions sought to be reviewed were raised" in the state court system and "the method or manner of raising them and the way in which they were passed on by those courts,. . . so as to show that the federal question was timely and properly raised and that this Court has jurisdiction to review the judgment on a writ of certiorari." The obligations under Rules 14.1 and 15.2 are complementary, but independent of each other.