U.S. Supreme Court filings, governed by the Supreme Court Rules, can present a daunting task, even for experienced appellate litigators. The form and format requirements date from an earlier time in American law, when lawyers presented their appellate court briefs as formal, elegantly prepared publications. While most courts now allow stapled, desktop printing, the U.S. Supreme Court maintains a tradition of solemnity and ceremony that befits the most powerful court in the nation.

But for the new filer, the Supreme Court Rules—clocking in at almost 17,000 words—can seem overwhelmingly dense and complex, while still occasionally failing to convey all of the requirements that the filer will need to understand. To help the new filer, the Court offers a Guide to Filing Paid Cases. For the most part, the Guide restates many of the filing requirements that can be found in the Rules, but in a more succinct, straightforward style. In twelve paragraphs the Guide lays out the basic information necessary to successfully file in most circumstances.


And in a few particulars, the Guide actually expands on items not fully addressed in the Rules, expressly declaring requirements and prohibitions that might not be clearly evident in the text of the Supreme Court Rules.

For example, Supreme Court Rule 34.1(f), describing the required elements of the brief cover, declares that the “

[n]ames of persons other than attorneys admitted to a state bar may not be listed, unless the party is appearing pro se[.]” But unless the filer reads Paragraph 2 of the Guide, she might not know that the “names of non-lawyers such as research assistants, law students, and advisors may not appear on the cover under any circumstances; nor are they to be credited with having contributed to the preparation of the petition either in the text, in a footnote, or at the conclusion of the petition.” We find this issue usually comes up when a law school class or clinic collaborates on a Supreme Court filing, and the professor would like to acknowledge the efforts of her non-lawyer students; while the Rules might be read to leave some room to squeeze in a well-deserved shout-out, the Guide pretty much eliminates any such acknowledgment.

If you are a new filer, I recommend that you first read through the Guide to Filing Paid Cases, then refer to the Supreme Court Rules to sort out any particular issues and questions. And call Cockle Legal Briefs to schedule your printing. Our experienced team knows all of the pitfalls, and we can help you navigate the process. We will review your draft to make sure that your brief satisfies the Supreme Court Rules—as well as all of the requirements in the other rule book—so it will be accepted by the Clerk, and docketed on time.