What is the effect of denying petition for certiorari by the Supreme Court of the United States?

A "Petition for Writ Certiorari" is a formal, written request for the Supreme Court to review a lower court's ruling. The denial of a Petition for Certiorari (aka Cert Petition) by the Supreme Court in a federal case means the decision of the Court of Appeals stands as the final decision. This does not mean that the Supreme Court either agrees or disagrees with the decision of the Court of Appeals, only that the case will not be reviewed. If the petition is denied, it has significance to the parties in the case, but it does not necessarily impact other cases.

The Supreme Court of the United States receives over 5000 petitions of certiorari annually. Of those cases, they accept 100. The Supreme Court has the discretion to hear only cases they deem appropriate. Constitutionally, those involved in the lawsuit are each entitled to one appeal, which is handled at the district appeals court level. After that, the decision is considered a representation of current law. The Supreme Court denies most appeals because the court has no desire to change the interpretation of modern law. The Supreme Court agrees to hear cases that are either novel issues or issues that the court believes require guidance. In other words, if the current interpretation of the court is not in agreement with the United States Constitution, then the case will most likely go to the Supreme Court.

If your Writ of Certiorari is denied, it simply means that the appeals court decision agreed with the current law. While this may be hard to swallow, especially if you are on the wrong end of an expensive lawsuit, remember that the current law is not always in agreement with our sense of fairness. If you have recently been through the circuit court of appeals and were dissatisfied with the judgment, a Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court may be necessary.

If you still have questions about Petition for Certiorari, would like to continue with an appeal, or have questions regarding your next steps as a litigant, contact an appeals attorney.