Supreme Court Jurisdiction
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Appellate Jurisdiction
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Appellate jurisdiction is different from the concept of original jurisdiction. Appellate jurisdiction is simply the power vested within a court to both review decisions administered in lower courts and overturn the outcomes of those decisions. The U.S. Supreme Court holds appellate jurisdiction based on the case and controversy clause in Article III, Section 3, Clause I of the U.S. Constitution. As discussed in this article’s Introduction, such "cases and controversies" include interpreting the Constitution, federal laws, treaties, and admiralty and maritime laws, as well disputes between states, states and individuals not citizens of that same state, and citizens of diverse citizenship.

There are two ways by which a case can make its way to the United States Supreme Court through its appellate jurisdiction: by writ of certiorari, and by appeal.

Most cases that come before the United States Supreme Court come via a writ of certiorari. A writ of certiorari is a petition filed with the Court by the party who did not succeed in a lower court that formally requests the United States Supreme Court to review that decision that was not favorable to them. The Court has complete discretion to hear those cases which come to its attention via a writ of certiorari. In other words, the Court does not have to hear cases it does not want to hear, and four of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices must actually vote to hear the case. Further, the party filing the writ must include a statement of the facts of the case, the legal questions to be assessed, and compelling arguments as to why the United States Supreme Court should grant the petition.

Under a writ of certiorari, there are a few types of cases that may come before the Court. First, the writ could petition the Court to hear a case from a state court where a state statute appears to violate a well-defined federal law. These types of cases may require the United States Supreme Court to invoke the Supremacy Clause. The Supremacy Clause is a clause within the United States Constitution which establishes that the Constitution, Federal Statutes, and U.S. treaties are "the supreme law of the land" (Article VI, Clause 2). If a state statute appears to conflict with a federal law, the United States Supreme Court can hear a case on such a matter.

Additionally, under a writ of certiorari the Court can hear cases from state courts where the constitutionality of a federal statute or treaty, or a state statute is at issue. Essentially, the United States Supreme Court has the power of judicial review. Judicial review is a concept whereby the Court can review the constitutionality of the acts of other branches of the federal government. This power is part of the concept of separation of powers.

Lastly, under a writ of certiorari the Court can hear all cases the come from the federal courts of appeals. Again, one would still have to petition the Supreme Court and give good reason as to why it should consider and accept the case for further review.

In addition to coming to the United States Supreme Court’s attention via a writ of certiorari, cases can also come before the Court by appeal. Unlike cases that come under a writ of certiorari, the Court must hear cases that come to it by appeal. The Court loses its discretion to accept cases under this concept. These types of cases are very rare. They are cases that come before the Court after a federal district court panel grants or denies a certain type of relief to a party.

Finally, let’s wrap this article up by going over a few key points.

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