The Supreme Court of the United States has authority to review by writ of certiorari federal court decisions. The Supreme Court also has authority to review by writ of certiorari the decisions of the highest state courts. A petition for certiorari seeks Supreme Court review not as a matter of right but as a matter of judicial discretion.

Who can petition for certiorari?

Any party to a civil or criminal case can file a petition for review of the case by the Supreme Court by writ of certiorari. The party filing the petition is called the petitioner.

When does a petition for certiorari have to be filed?

A petition for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the highest state court or of a federal court of appeals in a civil or criminal case has to be filed within 90 days after entry of the judgment. Four of the nine justices must vote to grant the petition for certiorari.

What should the petition for certiorari contain?

The petition for certiorari begins with the questions presented for review. The petition includes a list of all parties in the case and a brief statement of the facts of the case, along with summary of the lower courts' proceedings. The petition also includes a statement as to why the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the case. All statutes, regulations, and constitutional provisions involved in the case must be included in the petition. Finally, the petition gives the reasons for granting review.

What is a brief in opposition to the petition for certiorari?

The party opposing the certiorari petition (known as the respondent) has 30 days after receiving the petition to file a brief in opposition. The respondent presents any reasons the Supreme Court should not review the case.

What are the types of cases in which certiorari is typically granted?

The Supreme Court will generally grant certiorari in the following instances when:

  • A federal court of appeals has rendered a judgment that conflicts with the decision of another federal court of appeals on the same question
  • A federal court of appeals has decided a federal question in a manner that conflicts with a decision of the highest state court
  • The highest court in a state has decided a federal question in a manner that conflicts with the decision of the highest court in another state or with a decision of a federal court of appeals
  • A state court or a federal court of appeals has decided a federal question in a way that conflicts with a prior decision of the Supreme Court

What are the grounds for denying the petition for certiorari?

The Supreme Court will deny certiorari if it lacks jurisdiction to hear the case. For example, the Supreme Court only has certiorari jurisdiction over a decision of a state's highest court if the decision is a final judgment. The Supreme Court would deny certiorari if the decision sought to be reviewed was not a final judgment on the merits.

When will the Supreme Court dismiss the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted?

If after granting certiorari the Supreme Court concludes that the case does not present a substantial federal question for decision, it will dismiss certiorari as improvidently granted. Certiorari will also be dismissed if the petitioner lacks standing (a sufficient personal interest in the outcome of the case) to raise the issue presented in the petition for certiorari.

Also, if the judgment was not final or was not rendered by the highest state court, the writ will be dismissed. Generally, the Supreme Court does not issue an opinion when it dismisses a writ of certiorari as improvidently granted.

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