Supreme Court decisions shape the interpretation of the law and create precedents that impact how future cases will be decided. Some of the biggest Supreme Court decisions have:
- Enforced child labor laws
- Ended racial segregation
- Prohibited firearms in schools
- Given the Federal Government power to regulate interstate commerce
So how does the Supreme Court decide which cases to hear, and how would you get a case in front of the Supreme Court?
How to Get From Trial To The Supreme Court
You cannot get just any case in front of the Supreme Court; it must be one that is in federal jurisdiction or is a matter of federal law. State cases will stay in state jurisdiction, and the final step would be the state’s supreme court.
Before taking the case to Supreme Court, it must be heard by the regular court system i.e. state or federal courts. You will need to go through the standard appeals process, with the highest appeal being the U.S. Supreme Court.
When appealing to the Supreme Court, you must prepare a “petition for certiorari” which is read by the Supreme Court to decide if they will hear your case. Your petition for certiorari must contain:
- The legal issues presented in your case
- The core facts
- The case history and previous rulings
Any interested parties may file briefs either for or against the petition, and your opponent may file a response.
Supreme Court clerks will then read your documents and create a summary and recommendation for the justices to review. The justices will make the decision as to whether the Supreme Court will hear the case or not. If they decide to hear your case, they will issue a writ of certiorari.
How Does the Supreme Court Decide Which Cases to Hear: Factors The Court Consider
The Supreme Court receives approximately 10,000 petitions for certiorari each year. Because of the time it takes to hear the cases, they will only hear approximately 80 cases a year. The small number of cases they can hear means that they need to prioritize cases carefully.
While nobody knows the exact criteria the Supreme Court uses to decide which cases to hear, we know they consider the following factors:
- Conflict of law? – If state or federal courts reach different conclusions about a constitutional or federal law, the Supreme Court will step in to create a ruling on how the law should be interpreted. This ensures that the law is upheld the same way nationwide.
- Important cases – The Supreme Court will hear cases about important social issues such as Roe v. Wade or important political issues.
- The Justices’ Interests – A justice may give preference to a case that is in their preferred area of law.
- Disregard of previous Supreme Court decisions – If a lower court completely disregards a previous decision of the Supreme Court, then the court will either:
- Over-rule the case with no comment
- Hear the case and correct the lower court