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Certiorari is a legal term used in the legal system, particularly in the United States, in the context of appellate or review proceedings. It comes from the Latin word “to be informed” or “to be made more certain.” A writ or order is issued by a higher court, typically an appellate court, to review and potentially overturn a decision made by a lower court.

Here’s how the process works:

  1. Lower Court Decision: A case is first heard and decided by a lower court, such as a trial court or an intermediate appellate court.
  2. Party Seeking Review: If one of the parties involved in the case is unhappy with the lower court’s decision and believes there was an error of law or some other reason for review, they may petition the higher court for certiorari.
  3. Higher Court Review: The higher court, usually a state supreme court or a federal appellate court (such as the U.S. Supreme Court), has discretion in deciding whether to grant certiorari. If they agree to hear the case, they issue a writ of certiorari, which essentially orders the lower court to send up the case records and transcripts for review.
  4. Review and Decision: Once the higher court receives the case materials, it reviews the legal issues presented and the lower court’s decision. The higher court may then render its own decision, which can affirm, reverse, or modify the lower court’s judgment.

Certiorari is often associated with the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of cases. The parties seeking to have their cases heard by the Supreme Court file a “petition for writ of certiorari.” However, the Supreme Court only grants certiorari to a small percentage of the cases petitioned to it each year. The Court typically selects cases that present significant legal issues, conflicts among lower courts (circuit splits), or cases of national importance.

In summary, certiorari is a legal mechanism that allows a higher court to review and potentially correct errors made by lower courts. It is a crucial part of the appellate process, ensuring that the law is applied consistently and fairly.

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