How Do Courts Make Decisions

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Although each judge has the prerogative to read each petition for certiorari himself/herself, many participate in what is informally called a «pool of certainty.» Since applications for certiorari are received weekly, they are distributed among participating judges. Participating judges distribute their requests among their trainee lawyers. The trainee lawyers, in turn, read the petitions assigned to them, write a brief memorandum on the case and make a recommendation as to whether or not to accept the case. The judge makes these briefs and recommendations available to the other judges at a conference of judges. The courts only hear cases of fact and controversy – a party must prove that they have suffered harm in order to take legal action. This means that the courts do not rule on the constitutionality of laws or the legality of acts if the judgment has no practical effect. Cases before the judiciary usually range from the District Court to the Court of Appeal and may even end up in the Supreme Court, although the Supreme Court hears relatively few cases each year. Supreme Court justices do not immediately announce their decisions in cases. Instead, they discuss cases privately with each other, sometimes trying to convince each other to accept a state of mind. A litigant who loses in a federal appeals court or in a state`s highest court can file a petition for a «writ of certiorari,» which is a document that asks the Supreme Court to reconsider the case. However, the Supreme Court is not required to grant review. The court usually only approves a case if it is a new and important legal principle or if two or more federal courts of appeal have interpreted a law differently.

(There are also special circumstances in which the Supreme Court is required by law to hear an appeal.) When a case is brought before the Supreme Court, the parties must file written pleadings and the court may hear oral proceedings. Parties who are not satisfied with a lower court`s decision must go to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case. The main way to ask the court to review is to ask the court to issue a writ of certiorari. This is a request that the Supreme Court orders a lower court to send the case file for review. The Court is generally not required to hear these cases, and it usually does so only if the case may be of national importance, harmonize conflicting decisions in the federal courts and/or have precedential value. In fact, the Court accepts 100 to 150 of the more than 7,000 cases it is asked to consider each year. Typically, the court hears cases that are heard either by an appropriate U.S. court of appeals or by the highest court of a particular state (if the state court has ruled on a constitutional question). Each year, the judges decide to hear about 100 cases.

Each case is a real conflict between groups, individuals or federal and state governments. The Supreme Court does not deliberate on political decisions before ruling on a case. In almost all cases, the Supreme Court does not rule on appeals under the law; Instead, the parties must apply to the Court for a certiorari. It is the custom and practice of the court to «issue a certificate» when four of the nine judges decide to hear the case. Of the approximately 7,500 applications for certiorari filed each year, the court generally issues fewer than 150 certificates. These are, as a general rule, cases which the Court considers sufficiently important to require their consideration; A common example is where two or more federal courts of appeal have ruled differently on the same question of federal law. Once the applications for certiorari have been processed, the judges begin to discuss the cases that have been heard since their last conference. According to the Supreme Court transcript, all judges have the opportunity to express their views on the case and to express questions or concerns. Each judge speaks about the others without interruption.

The Chief Justice makes the first statement, then each judge speaks in descending order of seniority and ends with the lowest judge – the one who has served the fewest years on the court. Beyond that, however, the Constitution tells us little about the composition or organization of the Court; There are no qualifications for seats on the Court and does not specify how many judges will be on the Court.