Petitioning the Supreme Court can be a daunting task.  Careless writing, poor formatting, and ignorance of the Court’s rules can significantly decrease the odds that your petition will be selected for review.

Filing a brief fraught with errors makes it nearly impossible to win any appeal.  By developing a working knowledge of the essentials of a Supreme Court petition, you can increase the chances that the Court will consider your case.

Five Petition Tips

Here are five critical tips to keep in mind while preparing your Supreme Court petition:

  1. Do your research

Before drafting your brief, make sure to compile all available information about your case. Take time to read other petitions, particularly those in which certiorari was granted.  This sample brief from Cockle Legal Briefs is a good place to start.

  1. Write clearly and persuasively

Supreme Court petitions present a unique opportunity for appellate advocacy.  Utilize active verbs and a single narrative to clearly present your case.  If the Justices cannot understand what your case is about from the moment they pick up your brief, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

  1. Be Persuasive and Succinct

Supreme Court Justices care about specific questions of the law and whether your case presents an opportunity to answer those questions.  The most convincing Supreme Court petitions use clear, effective issue framing and focused argument to gain attention in an already overcrowded docket.

  1. Simplify

The Court’s certiorari jurisdiction, though sweeping in scope, is exercised sparingly.  Your brief’s strength will contribute to its success on appeal.  Outline your argument in advance so that it is clear, easy to digest, and focuses on the key issues at hand.

  1. Pose compelling questions

Most Supreme Court petitions pose just one or two questions for the Court to answer. It’s imperative to get these questions right, because they often determine whether the Justices will review a case. Your questions should focus on issues that go beyond the scope of your case, and could affect laws and decisions already in effect (see sidebar for examples). Your questions should be stated as succinctly as possible.  You can browse questions presented in cases where the Court granted certiorari by visiting the Supreme Court’s home page.

Three Petition Facts

  1. You can appeal your conviction, imprisonment, or a civil judgment below if you believe some aspect of the ruling was unlawful;
  2. Review by the U.S. Supreme Court is not a matter of right; the Court exercises its discretion sparingly;
  3. The Court doesn’t focus on correcting errors in lower court decisions. Instead, it focuses on larger issues that affect future litigation.

Top Petition Resources

For more insight on brief writing, formatting, and filing, visit:

Writing a Legal Brief: Part I

Writing a Legal Brief: Part II

Writing a Legal Brief: Part III

Writing A Legal Brief: Part IV

Top 10 Most Surprising Supreme Court Formatting Rules

Legal Brief Formatting: Three Elements

Legal Brief Printing Frequently Asked Questions


As you pursue your appeal, keep these strategies and tips in mind, and contact Cockle Legal Briefs today to help file your next appellate brief!