This post is designed to assist attorneys and pro se petitioners filing a booklet format petition in the United States Supreme Court.  A copy of the Court’s Rules, which establish the procedures that must be followed, is available here.  Be sure to read the following sections carefully:

  • Rules 10-14 (Petitioning for certiorari)
  • Rule 29 (Filing and service on opposing party or counsel)
  • Rule 30 (Computation and extension of time)
  • Rules 33.1 and 34 (Preparing booklet format briefs)

A petition worthy of certiorari is generally thought to contain legal issues that: (1) have national importance; (2) have divided federal courts of appeals or state courts; and (3) have not been decided by the Supreme Court.

You must file your petition for a writ of certiorari within 90 days from the date of the entry of the final judgment in the United States court of appeals or highest state appellate court, or 90 days from the denial of a timely-filed petition for rehearing.  The issuance of a mandate has no bearing on the computation of time and does not extend the time for Supreme Court filing.

To see a sample petition for a writ of certiorari in full, click here.

  • The Cover 

You should not copy the caption of the case as it appeared in the lower court, unless it accurately identi­fies who the petitioner(s) and respondent(s) are in the Supreme Court.  Rule 34.1.

sample cover

  • The Index 

The question(s) presented should be “expressed concisely in relation to the circumstances of the case

[and] without unnecessary detail …. [They] should be short and not argumentative or repetitive.” S. Ct. R. 14.1(a).  The question(s) may be prefaced by a short introductory statement to set the scene, so that they may be understood.  Questions in cases accepted for review are usually no longer than two or three sentences each. Typically no more than three questions are presented.  Make sure you state the issues clearly and without unnecessary detail.  Rule 14.1(a).


This page should list the parties to the proceeding if all their names do not appear on the cover. Rule 14.1(b).  If all parties appear on the cover, this section is not needed.


Rule 29.6 requires the identification of a party’s “parent corporations” and “any publicly held company that owns 10% or more of the [party’s] stock,” if the petition is filed on behalf of one or more nongovernmental corporate entities.  If the petitioner is an individual, this section is not needed.


(List the main headings of items that appear in your brief. Rule 14.1(c).)


(Describe each document included in the appendix.  Rule 14.1(c).)


(List the authorities that you cite in your brief. Rule 14.1(c).)

  • The Brief 

Indicate whether the opinions of the lower courts in your case have been published, and if so, the citation for the opinions below.  Rule 14.1(d).


The purpose of the jurisdiction section is to establish the statutory source for the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, and the dates that determine whether the petition is timely filed. Rule 14.1(e).  The Court draws its jurisdiction to hear federal cases from 28 U.S.C. § 1254(1) and state cases from 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a).


Provide the actual wording of the relevant portions of constitutional provisions, statutes, and regulations involved in the case. Rule 14.1(f).  Quotations exceeding 50 words must be indented throughout the brief.  If the provisions involved are lengthy, they may be included in the appendix instead of the brief.


Provide a concise statement of the case which contains the facts and proceedings material to the consideration of the question(s) presented.  The statement should proceed chronologically and is limited to only the relevant facts of the case.  Rule 14.1(g).


Use this section to demonstrate errors in the lower court’s decision and the national importance of having the Supreme Court decide the question(s) involved.  It may be important to demonstrate that the ruling of the court that decided your case is in conflict with the decisions of another appellate court.  The reasons should be as concise as possible.  Rule 14.1(h).


Conclude by stating “For the foregoing reasons, the petition for a writ of certiorari should be granted.”

Respectfully submitted,

(Signature block with name, address, phone number, and email)

  • The Appendix

howtoThe appendix must contain all items required by Rule 14.1(i).  Append the opinions and orders entered in conjunction with the judgment sought to be reviewed.  You must also include any other relevant opinions and orders (including Magistrate Reports and Recommendations) entered in the case by intermediate and/or trial courts, and the highest court’s order on rehearing (if applicable).  You may also include any other material you believe essential to understand your petition.

  • Certificate of Word Count Compliance

Petitions are limited to 9,000 words, excluding the cover, roman-numbered pages, and appendix.  Headings and footnotes in the brief must be included in the word count.  Rule 33.1(d).

  • Affidavit of Service

This document lists the names, addresses, phone numbers and emails of all parties being served and/or their attorneys.  Rule 29.5(b).

We hope these cert. petition legal writing tips have helped!