How a case gets heard by the U.S. Supreme Court

Oregon residents may be interested to learn how a case ends up being heard by the United States Supreme Court. Because Supreme Court decisions have such a major impact on future cases, not every plaintiff can appeal their case all the way to the top. To begin, the U.S. Supreme Court will only hear cases that involve federal laws due to their jurisdiction.

If the U.S. Supreme Court ends up hearing a case, it is usually because the losing party in a case appealed multiple lower courts' decisions to rule against them. The individual will usually begin their case at a local state or federal court. Once the person has appealed unsuccessfully to all of the other courts, they may choose to prepare a petition for certiorari and present it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Around 10,000 petitions for certiorari are sent to the U.S. Supreme Court every year, but only around 80 are heard. Some of the factors that the U.S. Supreme Court considers when deciding whether or not to hear a case are whether the case involves an important social issue and whether the case involves a conflict of law. If there is a case where a lower court ignored a past Supreme Court decision, the court might choose to hear this case in order to correct the error.

An individual or entity who wishes to appeal a court's decision in a federal case may want to speak with an attorney. Federal appeals are a complex area of law that may be difficult to navigate without legal representation. After looking into the details of the case and the prior trial, an attorney may be able to help an individual to prepare all of the documents necessary for an appeal.

Source: Findlaw, "How Does the U.S. Supreme Court Decide Whether to Hear a Case?", November 25, 2014

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