Success Rate of a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court

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tiny lion What is the Probability that Certiorari will be Granted?

Getting a case heard by the Supreme Court is considerably more difficult than gaining admission to Harvard. In 2010, there were 5,910 petitions for a Writ of Certiorari filed with the Supreme Court, but cert was granted for only 165 cases. That is a success rate of only 2.8%. (In contrast, Harvard admitted 5.9% of its applicants in the year 2012). Over half the petitions submitted come from pro se and/or indigent criminal defendants or civil litigants. Since these petitions are drafted by non-attorneys, they enjoy a considerably lower success rate. Focusing only on attorney-submitted petitions, the success rate is closer to 6%, a rate that at least offers a ray of hope.

Here are some interesting statistics that are compiled from data supplied by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, between 2007-2010 and compiled in the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice published by the University of Albany.

Petitions for a Writ of Certiorari Filed Between 2007-2010
2007 2008 2009 2010
Criminal 3,563 2,673 2,432 2,449
U.S. Civil 923 780 856 783
Private Civil 2,429 2,545 2,407 2,513
Administrative 188 156 165 165
TOTAL 7,103 6,154 5,860 5,910
Success Rate of Petitions for Writ of Certiorari (Granted/Filed)%
2007 2008 2009 2010
Criminal 2.1% 6.4% 2.8% 1.8%
U.S. Civil 1.4% 2.6% 3.2% 1.9%
Private Civil 2.5% 2.0% 2.7% 3.4%
Administrative 2.1% 10.9% 5.5% 11.5%
TOTAL 2.1% 4.2% 2.9% 2.8%