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How the Supreme Court decides what cases to hear

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2016 | Uncategorized

If your case is significant enough, your lawyer may decide to seek an appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Bear in mind, though; the Supreme Court will only hear certain types of cases.  And this will happen after you have exhausted other legal courses of action.

Those actions start with the filing of a lawsuit in a local, state or federal court.  A trial judge will rule on the case after hearing evidence and legal arguments.  If the judge decides all or part of a case against you, you have the right to appeal to a higher court.  When you have appealed as far as you can, then you can consider appealing to the Supreme Court.

That appeal process begins with the filing of a petition for certiorari.  This will contain all the files, facts and important legal issues regarding your case.  The file will be reviewed by Supreme Court clerks who will review and summarize them before making a recommendation to the justices as to whether or not to take the case.  Your odds are generally not good, though as the Supreme Court receives about 10,000 petitions for certiorari each year, but only hears about 80 cases.

To be considered for a Supreme Court appeal, the case must meet certain standards.

  • The case must resolve a conflict of law. When federal circuit courts and state supreme courts cannot reach the same conclusion on a case about an issue of federal or constitutional law, the Supreme Court may hear the case and make a ruling so that all parts of the country will operate under the same law.
  • The case is important. The court may hear cases that are highly visible and unusual or one that tackles an important social issue.
  • The case is of particular interest to one or more of the justices.
  • The case has been disregarded by a lower court. If a lower court goes against a previous ruling by the Supreme Court, the justices may hear the case to correct or overturn the lower court.

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