What is a Petition for Certiorari to the U. S. Supreme Court?


A criminal defendant who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Massachusetts appellate court of last resort, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), may petition the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to hear the case. SCOTUS is under no obligation to hear any case. SCOTUS is the court of last resort in the United States.


  • could have national significance;

  • might harmonize conflicting decisions in the federal Circuit courts or state courts of last resort;

  • could have precedence value (i.e., be relied upon by other courts); or,

  • was wrongly decided on a substantial issue of federal law.

SCOTUS is not likely to consider a petition for certiorari (cert petition) if the case:


  • presents only a state-law issue, or there is an independent and adequate state-law ground for the result;

  • turned on the specific facts of your case;

  • was decided by rejecting your position on multiple grounds, which means the federal question presented in a cert petition would not affect the outcome; or,

  • was decided on the misapplication of a properly stated rule of law.

Massachusetts Criminal Appeal Lawyer

SCOTUS accepts only 100-150 cases annually. Yet there are about 7,000 cert petitions filed each year. To be granted, a cert petition must receive favorable votes from four of the nine Justices of the United States Supreme Court.


Alternatively, SCOTUS relief may be obtained if five of the nine Supreme Court Justices vote for summary disposition, either on the merits or not. Summary disposition on the merits affirms, reverses, or dismisses the lower court's judgment. Another form of summary disposition is called "GVR" (Grant, Vacate, Reconsider), which remands the case to the State court for reconsideration in light of an intervening ruling.


Certiorari Consideration Early in State Court Criminal Appeal


Attorney William (Bill) Driscoll handles each appeal personally. His research, writing, and presentation skills are time tested and based upon the same drive, detailed analysis, and plain-English communication style that earned him Federal Government distinction during his pre-law career.


Attorney Driscoll prepares each Massachusetts state court criminal appeal for the potential filing of a cert petition by raising in the state court appeal violations of federal law. That way, if the state criminal appeal is ultimately unsuccessful, it might be a candidate for a petition for certiorari to Supreme Court of the United States. To learn more about the law and how Bill can help you, contact Attorney Driscoll.