17. How do cases arrive before the appellate courts?
The method by which a case arrives before an appellate court varies based upon the type of appellate court.
US Supreme Court – The US Supreme Court accepts cases via two primary methods. The first method is the Writ of Certiorari. This is a written demand issued by the court for the case to be transferred to the court for review. Procedurally, 4 of 9 Justices must agree to accept the writ and review the case. The second method is pursuant to appeal by any party to a case. Generally, the court will only accept appeals of issues that have important and broad impact. Further, the issues on appeal generally involve issues of constitutionality. The Supreme Court may use this authority to review decisions by the highest court in any state or by any federal court. As the highest appellate court, decisions by US Supreme Court are final. That is, its decisions cannot be appealed further. Also, its decisions provide precedent for all inferior courts. This means that all lower courts (state and federal) must follow, interpret, and apply the law consistently with the interpretation of the Supreme Court. The court’s interpretation of the law actually becomes part of the law and forms the common law surrounding the statute.
⁃ Discussion: How do you feel about the US Supreme Court’s ability to demand that any appellate case be transferred to the court for review? Is there are good argument that appeals to the Supreme Court should only happen pursuant to petition of the parties?
⁃ Practice Question: Gerard, a citizen of State A, does not agree with a state statute allowing state agencies to ask employees about political affiliation as part of a job application. He believes that employers ask political affiliation questions as a subtext for discriminating based upon social belief and the expression of those beliefs. He files a federal action in the US District Court challenging the statute. The court defers action on the case and recommends immediate appeal based upon questions of constitutionality of the statute. At this point, Gerard is confident that his view will prevail in the Circuit Court, because a separate federal circuit court recently ruled on a similar issue in a way that is favorable to or recognizes Gerard’s argument. Surprisingly, the local federal circuit rejects Gerard’s arguments and holds the statute to be constitutional. Gerard immediately requests appeal to the US Supreme Court. What factors and procedures will affect the Supreme Court decision of whether or not to accept the case?