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Using Certiorari to Appeal to the US Supreme Court

2 min

The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) possesses the power and authority to review federal court decisions and decisions of the highest state courts by way of Writ of Certiorari. Every year, around 5,000 cases are appealed for review to the Supreme Court of the United States. However, out of these cases, the Court determines only about 200 cases.

Petitions for a Writ of Certiorari:

Any party who is unsatisfied with the judgment of the state’s highest court or a federal court of appeals in a civil or criminal case may file a petition for review of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court by requesting a writ of certiorari. A petition for certiorari requesting review by the U.S. Supreme Court is a matter of judicial discretion, and not a matter of right. A petition for a writ of certiorari must be filed within 90 days from the date of judgment. Four out of the nine justices should vote in order to allow the petition for certiorari. The petition for certiorari must begin with the questions to be presented for review. The petition should comprise a list of each and every party to the case and a concise statement of the facts of the case, inclusive of a summary of all lower court procedures. The petition for certiorari must include a statement about why the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the case; all statutes, regulations, and constitutional provisions involved in the case must be incorporated in the petition. Most importantly, in conclusion, the petition should provide reasons for granting review. The respondent objecting to the granting of the certiorari petition has 30 days from the filing time to file a brief in opposition. In the brief, the opposing party must provide the reasons why the U.S. Supreme Court must not review the case. 


Grant of Certiorari: In general, SCOTUS will grant certiorari in the following circumstances:


  • A federal court of appeals delivers a judgment that clashes with the verdict of a different federal court of appeals on the same issue.
  • A federal court of appeals determines a federal issue in a manner that conflicts with the decision of the state’s highest court.
  • The highest court of a state decides a federal matter in a manner that conflicts with the judgment of another state’s highest court, or with the verdict of a federal court of appeals.
  • A federal court of appeals or a state court decides a federal issue in a manner that clashes with a previous declaration of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Denial of Certiorari

SCOTUS will reject a petition for certiorari if it does not have jurisdiction to hear the case. The U.S. Supreme Court only has jurisdiction over a decision of a state's highest court. The decision to be reviewed should also be the final judgment from the state’s highest court. The U.S. Supreme Court will reject the petition for certiorari if the Court finds that the subject matter of the case does not present any significant federal question. The petition for certiorari may also be rejected when the petitioner lacks an adequate individual interest in the outcome of the case.


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