Pretty much everyone has heard the adage “I’ll take my case to the Supreme Court.” What does this mean? In Indiana, there is the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court. The Indiana Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court.1 So, in Indiana, we have three levels of courts: trial courts, the Indiana Court of Appeals, and the Indiana Supreme Court. A petition for certiorari does not directly apply to any of these Indiana courts, but certain actions must be taken in Indiana’s courts before filing a Petition for Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. This blog analyses the process necessary to seek a Petition for Certiorari.2
The way most cases begin in Indiana that could wind up in the United States Supreme Court is with a decision in a civil or criminal case from an Indiana trial court. If a litigant believes the trial court did not properly decide the case, or the jury got it wrong, he or she (if they ultimately want to file a Petition for Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court if relief is not provided by a lower court) must then take an appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals. This appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days of the final decision or the appeal is forfeited.3 If the Court of Appeals does not correct the error the appellate believes was made in the trial court, it must seek transfer4 to the Indiana Supreme Court.
With transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court, the transfer must be sought within forty-five (45) days if rehearing in the Court of Appeals was not requested. The case is presented by researching, preparing, and filing a Petition to Transfer with the Indiana Supreme Court and paying the required filing fee. As with the Court of Appeals, failure to timely file the Petition to Transfer ends the appeal. The difference between the filings in the Court of Appeals versus the Supreme Court is the Court of Appeals must decide your case. With a Petition to Transfer, the Indiana Supreme Court has the discretion to determine if it will take a case. Only a small percentage of Petitions to Transfer are granted.
Once the Indiana Supreme Court decides a case or denies transfer (as this is the highest court in the state), this allows any litigant to file a Petition for Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. At present, the nine (9) justices of the United States Supreme Court accept and decide fewer than 100 cases per year. While your probability of the United States Supreme Court taking your case is statistically improbably, the Supreme Court has accepted several Indiana cases over the years. The Petition for Certiorari must be filed within ninety (90) of the Indiana Supreme Court denying a Petition for Transfer or deciding the case.
This blog is written by appellate attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle state and federal appeals of all types, including Petitions for Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. This blog was written for general educational purposes only. It is not a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.
- Some states do not have intermediate appellate courts, such as Wyoming which has trial courts and the Indiana Supreme Court.
- A Petition for Certiorari can be filed with the United States Supreme Court from Indiana’s federal courts as well, but these are beyond the scope of this blog.
- The Court of Appeals rarely considers belated civil appeals. However, it is more common for the Court of appeal to accept a belated criminal appeal because a criminal case may involve loss of liberties such as freedom by incarceration.
- There is the ability to ask the Court of Appeals to rehear any given case but this is rarely done and beyond the scope of this blog.