Review, process of Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Procedure whereby the Supreme Court accepts a case to hear and then determines the outcome.

The Supreme Court is primarily a court of appellate jurisdiction, although it has original jurisdiction to hear trials in cases that involve conflicts between two or more states or between states and the federal government. To ask the Court to hear an appeal, a party must file a petition for a writ of certiorari,Certiorari, writ of which usually occurs after judgment was entered against that party in a lower court. The Court will grant certiorari if, in its discretion, the Court decides that the party meets one of the criteria required by the rules of the Supreme Court of the United States. Although no rule requires it, generally, four out of the nine justices must vote to grant certiorari (cert) before an appeal is accepted. Certiorari is granted in a very small percentage of the cases that are actually filed; moreover, the Court’s conferences regarding the certiorari decision are private. Only the ultimate decision is released to the public record.

If certiorari is granted, the Court might decide to hear the appeal on its merits with briefs and oral argument, or the Court might rule on the appeal without oral argument issuing an opinion from the Court as a whole, referred to as a per curiam decision. In the event the Court decides to hear an appeal on its merits, parties must file briefs presenting their positions for the Court and an oral argument is scheduled. Also, the portions of the trial and previous appellate records are sent to the Court for its use.

As the Court confers privately to reach a decision, the Court is limited by the deference it must afford the lower court decision, the standard of review. The standard of review is determined by whether the issue appealed is a legal issue, a factual issue, or a discretionary issue. Furthermore, the Court will affirm a lower court decision if the error complained of is harmless. An error is harmless if the judgment would have been the same absent the error.

Finally, once the justices reach a decision, one justice is assigned the task of writing the opinion. Drafts are circulated among the justices until all revisions, comments, and corrections are complete. A decision is not announced until the opinion is released to the public record.

Appellate jurisdiction


Cert pool

Certiorari, writ of

Opinions, writing of

Oral argument

Categories: History