petition for certiorari

Primary tabs

Petition for certiorari refers to 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.

When parties petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case, this is a request that the Supreme Court order a lower court to send up the record of the case for review. The Supreme Court only hears these cases “if the case could have national significance, might harmonize conflicting decisions in the federal Circuit courts, and/or could have precedential value.”

In State v. Abram, the Supreme Court of Nebraska noted that the filing of a petition for certiorari does not automatically stay proceedings in a lower court and does not divest a trial court of jurisdiction. Similarly, the Court of Appeals of Georgia observed in Ligon v. Bartis that, “While the actual granting of a writ of certiorari by the United States Supreme Court operates as a stay, the mere filing of a petition for certiorari does not.”

In the postconviction relief context, as held by the U.S. Supreme Court in Clay v. U.S., finality attaches when the United States Supreme Court affirms a conviction on the merits on direct review, or denies a petition for a writ of certiorari, or when the time for filing a petition for certiorari expires.

[Last updated in December of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]