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Writ of Certiorari Questions

What is a writ of certiorari?

The term certiorari refers to an order or directive by a higher court to a lower court, tribunal or authority to obtain the record of a particular case for review. In the United States, the writ of certiorari is primarily issued by the Supreme Court to a lower court to review the judgment of the lower court for any legal error. One cannot appeal to the Supreme Court as a matter of right. Appeals have to be made to the Circuit Court of Appeals. The writ of certiorari is a tool which allows the Supreme Court to review the decisions of the court of appeals based on their discretion. It also facilitates the Supreme Court to use its limited resources to analyze important cases involving deep constitutional questions.

Listed below are a few questions answered by the Experts on issues related to writ of certiorari.

On what basis can the writ of certiorari be issued?

The U.S. government grants writs of certiorari on rare occasions. The contents of U.S. S. Ct. Rule 14 govern the writ and Rule 10 enlists the general points which the court considers:

1. There is a conflict of decision between two U.S. court of appeals on the same matter. Or an important federal question has been decided in a manner which conflicts the decision of the state court of last resort. Or maybe the judicial proceedings at the lower court have deviated from the accepted course of law and it requires the exercise of the Supreme Court’s supervisory power.

2. A state court of last resort has passed a verdict on an important federal question in such a manner that it conflicts the decision of another similar court in another state or the U.S. court of appeals.

3. A state court or the U.S. court of appeals has decided on a case which should have been handled by the Supreme Court or has decided on an important federal question which affects the relevant decisions of the Supreme Court.

In most cases, the writ of certiorari is not granted only based on bad facts or poor treatment by the lower courts. This implies that only matters of grave concern or misjudgment as stated above warrant an intervention by the Supreme Court.

How do I file a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court?

If your case fulfills the required criteria, you can prepare a petition for a writ of certiorari in a booklet format with a white cover. The petition should be limited to 9000 words and 40 copies need to be filed with the Court. The fee is $300. You can file the petition on the first Monday of October which is when the court is in session. The Clerk of Court can be contacted to obtain details about mailing and filing. If you are able to prove you are from an impoverished background (referred to as “in forma pauperis” in legal terms), the court could grant a concession on the petition, fees and copies. If the Court approves the petition, the case will be scheduled for filing of briefs and oral argument.

The ninth circuit is unwilling to issue me a writ of certiorari. Can I file an appeal with the Supreme Court?

A writ of certiorari requires a minimum of four out of nine justices or judges to approve or grant it. This is also referred to as the “Rule of Four”. Usually out of the 8000 or more requests or appeals the Supreme Court receives, it hears approximately 100 cases per year. Hence if the ninth circuit has rejected the appeal for a writ of certiorari probably because the matter could have been insubstantial, the chances of a Supreme Court review or hearing is highly unlikely.

My petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. Is there anything I can do?

In most cases, if the petition was rejected by the Supreme Court there is no further line of appeal and the case ends there. The Supreme Court is the last resort of appeal and usually there is no provision in the Supreme Court rules to authorize any other option beyond a petition of writ of certiorari. The judgment or verdict of the previous lower court would be the final decision regarding the case. The only possible option would be to re-examine the facts of the case to derive a different legal issue or angle in the case which you may be able to appeal to the higher courts and subsequently to the Supreme Court.

Writ of certiorari is a means to appeal to the highest judicial authority in the United States—the Supreme Court. Though the chances of the writ being granted may be slim, if you think your case warrants another chance for justice, it could be worth the effort and wait. To understand whether you can file for a writ of certiorari and what the intricacies of doing so are, consulting with an Expert could prove useful.
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