Encyclopedia > Certiorari

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In English Law Certiorari is a public law relief (i.e. something which you ask the court for to deal with an action of the Government, council or other (quasi)-governmental organisation.) See judicial review and writ.

An order of Certiorari is given by a senior court to reverse the actions of a lower court or other (quasi)-governmental organisation which has made a decision. Its use in the UK is declining, due to the changes to the remedies available for judicial review.

Historically, it was a prerogative writ.

In the U.S., certiorari is the writ an appellate court issues to a lower court to send up its record in some case it has decided, for the higher court to review it for legal error. Since most civil cases cannot be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, for example, a party who wants that court to review a decision of a federal or state court files a "petition for a writ of certiorari" in the Supreme Court, and if that court grants that petition, it issues the writ to the lower court to send the Supreme Court a complete copy of its "record" in the case (which is all the papers filed by the parties and all transcripts and exhibits from any trials or hearings). That does not mean the Supreme Court has found anything wrong with the decision, merely that it wants to look at it for some reason.

One situation where the Supreme Court sometimes "grants cert" is when the federal appeals courts in two (or more) federal judicial circuits have ruled different ways in similar situations, and the Supreme Court wants to resolve that "conflict between the circuits" about how the law is supposed to apply to that kind of situation.

Some state court systems use the traditional terminology, but in others "writ of review" has replaced "writ of certiorari" as the name of the writ for discretionary review of a lower court's judgment.

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