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Researching US Supreme Court Cases: Briefs, Orders, and Petitions

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Finding Supreme Court Briefs and Petitions

Finding Pending & Current Cases

Which cases will the Court hear? What's happening on the Court now?  These resources offer information about current events and cases that may be heard before the Court soon.

Finding Orders

The Supreme Court issues orders related to the grant or denial of certiorari, stays, motions in pending cases, mandamus, rehearings, permission to file amicus briefs, and attorney discipline. Find these through the following resources.

Relevant Definitions

Brief   A document used to submit a legal contention or argument to a court. A brief typically sets out the facts of the case and a party's legal arguments. These arguments must be supported by legal authority and precedent, such as statutes, regulations, and previous court decisions. Don't be fooled by the name -- briefs are usually anything but brief, as pointed out by writer Franz Kafka, who defined a lawyer as "a person who writes a 10,000-word decision and calls it a brief."

Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary. (via WEX)

Certiorari   A word from Law Latin, meaning "to be more fully informed."  If an appellate court has the power to review cases at its discretion, certiorari is the formal instrument by which that power gets used.  A writ of certiorari orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review it.  The U.S. Supreme Court uses certiorari to pick most of the cases that it hears.

The U.S. Supreme Court gives full consideration to but a small fraction of the cases it has authority to review. With many important categories of cases, the party seeking Supreme Court review does so by "petitioning" the Court to issue a "writ of certiorari." ... If the Court decides to review one or more issues in such a case it grants "certiorari" (often abbreviated as "cert."). If the Court decides not to review the case it denies "cert."

Definition provided by WEX.

Petition for certiorari   A petition that asks an appellate court to grant a writ of certiorari.  This type of petition usually argues that a lower court has incorrectly decided an important question of law, and that the mistake should be fixed to prevent confusion in similar cases.

Definition provided by WEX.