The Secret Nature of Supreme Court Case Selection

On Monday September 28, 2015, the United States Supreme Court will convene in private to determine the cases it will hear for the upcoming term. In a recent (September 24th) New York Times article, Stanford University law Professor Jeffrey Fisher indicates that out of “8,000 petitions that arrive at the court each year, the justices select about 75 cases.”  The Supreme Court rarely provides reasons for their decisions to accept or deny writs of certiorari.

Professor Fisher remarks: “It is hard to think of a more significant power in the machinery of our democracy that is exercised more secretly.” As Professor Fisher explains, if four or more justices vote to hear the case, a review is granted, and if not the petition for writ of certiorari is denied. This is largely done without comment, in what amounts to secrecy.   

On occasion, however, the justices do publish what is known as a “dissent from denial of certiorari.” But, this practice is entirely discretionary and only exercised when the justices have strong feelings as to why the case was not granted review.  More often than not, there is no official vote tally or written opinion published on cases denied for judicial review.

In short, Professor Fisher suggests that transparency in the Supreme Court judicial screening process would be consistent with the principals of open democracy.  

Recommended Articles

article feature image
Someone else did the crime, I pay the fine ?

In Arizona, property owners can lose their houses, cars and other valuables when someone else uses the property to commit a crime.

article feature image
Weasley Prosecutor Winks at Judge: 9th Circuit Voids 15 year Sentence

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals citing  the United States Supreme Court in Santobello in a split decision voided a 15 year prison sentence.

article feature image
BIA Must Disclose Evidence Against Some Applicants Accused of Marriage Fraud

Even the most experienced immigration lawyers can sometimes be completely baffled as to why USCIS denies a particular petition.

article feature image
9th Circuit Rules in Case Involving Immigration Attorney Error 14 Years Ago

Last week, the 9th circuit ruled in favor of an applicant for permanent residence in Peters v. Barr, who was caught in a 14-year-long bureaucratic nightmare

Most Migrants don’t Elude Inspection: 9th Circuit

Since the beginning of Operation Streamline in 2005, thousands of migrants have been criminally convicted, for unlawfully entering the United States.

Michael Harwin

About Michael Harwin

Michael’s skill and experience have been recognized repeatedly. He holds an A-V 5/5 preeminent rating by Martindale Hubbell. He has been named one of the top lawyers in Arizona by Southwest Superlawyers, and one of the best lawyers in Tucson by Tucson Lifestyle Magazine. He also has been named one of the best lawyers in the United States by , and given the highest rating possible by AVVO, 10/10 Superb. Amazon Books