US Supreme Court

US Supreme Court Proceedings

Appeals to the US Supreme Court 

The vast majority of US Supreme Court proceedings begin life as a petition for a writ of certiorari. When you petition the US Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, you are asking our nation’s highest court to correct an error made by a lower court.

Typically, the lower court is a federal court of appeals. It can also be a state’s highest court.

The most important prerequisites for filing a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court are:

  1. A final order or judgment
  2. A federal question

The latter prerequisite is (like all prerequisites, I suppose) critical.

Role of the US Supreme Court in Appeals

The United States Supreme Court does not occupy itself with thorny questions of state law.  Its function is to interpret federal statutes (or administrative code) and the United States Constitution, and to give guidance to the lower courts in the process.

So how does the US Supreme Court decide which petitions for writs of certiorari are granted?

The Importance of Rule 10 to Your Case

Rule 10 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States—aptly titled, “Considerations Governing Review on Writ of Certiorari”—provides insight.

According to Rule 10:

Review on a writ of certiorari is not a matter of right, but of judicial discretion. A petition for a writ of certiorari will be granted only for compelling reasons. The following, although neither controlling nor fully measuring the Court's discretion, indicate the character of the reasons the Court considers:

  1. a United States court of appeals has entered a decision in conflict with the decision of another United States court of appeals on the same important matter; has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with a decision by a state court of last resort; or has so far departed from the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings, or sanctioned such a departure by a lower court, as to call for an exercise of this Court's supervisory power;
  2. a state court of last resort has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with the decision of another state court of last resort or of a United States court of appeals;
  3. a state court or a United States court of appeals has decided an important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by this Court, or has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with relevant decisions of this Court.

Ensure Your Attorney Knows The Rules

A petition for a writ of certiorari is rarely granted when the asserted error consists of erroneous factual findings or the misapplication of a properly stated rule of law.

Rule 10 underscores the importance of having a legitimate federal question. It also indicates that not all federal questions are created equal.

The likelihood a certiorari petition will be granted increases if your federal question is not fact-intensive, and if there is a split in authority in the way lower courts are interpreting it.

Contact The Bronwlee Law Firm

Contact The Brownlee Law Firm for additional guidance if you are considering a petition to the United States Supreme Court. Board-certified appellate attorney Michael Brownlee has experience presenting cases to the US Supreme Court, which is what you need when your appeal is this important.

Keep in mind that most petitions are due within 90 days of entry of the order or judgment you intend to challenge before the Supreme Court.