Writing a supreme court opinion

A majority opinion sets forth the decision of the court and an explanation of the rationale behind the court's decision. Not all cases have a majority opinion.

Writing a supreme court opinion

Majority opinion - Wikipedia

Each term consists of alternating periods of approximately two weeks known as "sittings" and "recesses. The Court's authority to hear cases[ edit ] Appellate jurisdiction[ edit ] In nearly all of the cases heard by the Supreme Court, the Court exercises the appellate jurisdiction granted it by Article III of the Constitution.

This authority permits the Court to review—and affirm or overturn—decisions made by lower courts and tribunals. Procedures for bringing cases before the Supreme Court have changed significantly over time. Today, cases are brought before the Supreme Court by one of several methods, of which the first two account for the overwhelming majority of cases decided: By petition for a writ of certiorarifiled by a party to a case that has been decided by one of the United States courts of appeals or by the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

By petition for writ of certiorari with respect to a decision of one of the territorial or state courtsafter all state appeals have been exhausted, where an issue of federal constitutional or statutory law is in question.

writing a supreme court opinion

The writ is usually issued to a state supreme court including high courts of the District of ColumbiaPuerto Ricothe U.

Virgin IslandsGuamthe Northern Mariana Islandsand American Samoabut is occasionally issued to a state's intermediate appellate court for cases where the state supreme court denied certiorari or review and thereby refused to hear the appeal. By petition for certiorari before judgmentwhich permits the Court to expedite a case pending before a United States court of appeals by accepting the case for review before the appellate court has writing a supreme court opinion it.

However, Supreme Court Rule 11 provides that a case may be taken by the Court before judgment in a lower court "only upon a writing a supreme court opinion that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this Court.

By a certified question or proposition of law from one of the United States Courts of Appeals, meaning that the Court of Appeals requests the Supreme Court to instruct it on how to decide the case. This procedure was once common but is now rarely invoked; the last certificate accepted for review was in By petition for an "extraordinary writ " such as mandamusprohibitionor habeas corpus.

These writs are rarely granted by the Supreme Court though they are more frequently granted by lower courts. Original jurisdiction[ edit ] Certain cases that have not been considered by a lower court may be heard by the Supreme Court in the first instance under what is termed original jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court's authority in this respect is also derived from Article III of the Constitutionwhich states that the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction "in all cases affecting ambassadorsother public ministers and consulsand those in which a state shall be party.

This statute provides further that, in the case of disputes between two or more states, the Supreme Court holds both original and exclusive jurisdiction and no lower court may hear such cases.

The number of original jurisdiction cases heard by the court is small; generally only one or two such cases are heard per term.

Because the nine-member Supreme Court is not well-suited to conducting pretrial proceedings or trials, original jurisdiction cases accepted by the Court are typically referred to a well-qualified lawyer or lower-court judge to serve as special masterconduct the proceedings, and report recommendations to the Court.

The Court then considers whether to accept the special master's report or whether to sustain any exceptions filed to the report. Although jury trials are in theory possible in the Court's original jurisdiction cases, there has not been one since Georgia v.

Louisianathe state of Louisiana moved for a jury trial, but the Court denied the motion, ruling that the suit was an equity action and not an action at law, and that therefore the Seventh Amendment guarantee of a jury trial did not apply.

If a matter involving an action at law did come before the court, however, a jury would likely be empaneled and would hear the case alongside the justices of the Court. This occasionally results in harsh consequences, as Justice Thomas acknowledged in a opinion: Dickson was executed on April 26,without any Member of this Court having even seen his petition for certiorari.

The rejected certiorari petition was Dickson's first in this Court, and one can only speculate as to whether denial of that petition would have been a foregone conclusion. During the s and s, the number of cases accepted and decided each term approached per year; more recently, the number of cases granted has averaged well under annually.


Before each conference, the Chief Justice prepares a list of those petitions he believes have sufficient merit to warrant discussion. Any other Justice may also add a case to the "discuss list"; cases not designated for discussion by any Justice are automatically denied review.

The Court or a Justice may also decide that a case be "re-listed" for discussion at a later conference; this occurs, for example, where the Court decides to request input from the Solicitor General of the United States on whether a petition should be granted.

If the Supreme Court grants certiorari or the certified question or other extraordinary writthen a briefing schedule is arranged for the parties to submit their briefs in favor of or against a particular form of relief.

During this time, an individual or group having an interest in a case but not a party to the case may submit a motion to appear before the court as amicus curiae "friend of the court".

Except for certain specific categories such as lawyers for state and local governments or where all parties to the case consent, it is in the Court's discretion whether such motions are granted.

The grant or denial of certiorari petitions by the Court are usually issued as one-sentence orders without explanation. Cases that fall within the Court's original jurisdiction are initiated by filing a complaint directly with the Supreme Court, and normally are assigned to a special master appointed by the Court for the taking of evidence and making recommendations, after which the Court may accept briefs and hear oral arguments as in an appellate case.

Filing briefs[ edit ] Before oral arguments, the parties to a case file legal briefs outlining their arguments. An amicus curiae may also submit a brief in support of a particular outcome in the case if the Court grants it permission. Formal rules govern every aspect of these briefs; Chief Justice William Rehnquist described the rules thus: The rules direct what information must be included in a brief, describe the size of paper and type of print, and limit the number of pages.

Even the colors of the covers of the briefs are specified: The Court also often receives briefs from amici curiae friends of the Court in particular cases, and these must have a green cover.After two weeks of oral argument, the Court breaks from that routine to work on writing opinions.

To this end, at the end of each oral argument period, the Chief Justice circulates an assignment sheet, which lists the cases for which each Justice is tasked with writing the majority opinion for the Court.

Writs of Certiorari

The opinion of the Court is usually signed by the author; occasionally, the Supreme Court may issue an unsigned opinion per curiam. The practice of issuing a single opinion of the Court was initiated during the tenure of Chief Justice John Marshall during the early 19th century. Court and Date of the Decision.

Finish the reference with the name of the court, the court’s geographical jurisdiction (if needed), and the date of the decision, all in parentheses.

Court. Omit the name of the Supreme Court and its jurisdiction in references to the Supreme Court Reporter (S. . Majority opinion.

In law, a majority opinion is a judicial opinion agreed to by more than half of the members of a court. A majority opinion sets forth the decision of the court and an explanation of the rationale behind the court's decision.

Jun 04,  · WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who had refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple. The court’s decision was narrow, and it . After two weeks of oral argument, the Court breaks from that routine to work on writing opinions.

To this end, at the end of each oral argument period, the Chief Justice circulates an assignment sheet, which lists the cases for which each Justice is tasked with writing the majority opinion for the Court.

Concurring Opinion Writing on the U.S. Supreme Court