FILLING THE CASE
The First Step in getting a case to the Supreme Court is to ask for a review. A request for review comes in the form of a writ of certiorari, or cert for short. A cert is a written petition filed by the loser in the lower courts. It asks the Court to review the lower court decision in hopes of getting the verdict reversed.
What are the chances of having a cert accepted? The Court is in session about nine months of the year. During that time it receives thousands of certs. Some are put together by legal professionals. Others are written by prisoners, the ones who can't afford to pay a lawyer. Some of these come from inmates who have studied the law in prison. They are neat and formal, carefully typed, using proper legal language. Others are neither neat nor formal. They may be written out by hand in pen, pencil, or even crayon on lined notebook paper.
Since the Court receives so many certs and can handle so few, granting of cert is rare. The Court typically dismisses 99 percent of the petitions it receives without discussion. The remaining certs are reviewed, and if four or more of the nine justices vote yes, the Court accepts the appeal. To be accepted, the cert must give the Court [compelling reasons] for review.