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Interactive video lesson plan for: How a case gets to the US Supreme Court

Activity overview:

The only way is by surviving "the rule of four".

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Most often, the US Supreme Court grants or denies petitions to hear a case after reviewing a written request called a "petition for writ of certiorari". Also called "the writ of cert", it is reviewed by the Justices and granting the petition depends on whether or not it passes "the rule of four". If it does, the case is probably one of three types: a case of national importance, a case in which a lower court decision has invalidated federal law, or a case involving a split decision in lower courts. Famously, Bush v. Gore was an example of national importance, Gonzales v. Raich was a case in which a lower court invalidated federal law, and Obergefell v. Hodges was selected by the Court in order to resolve a circuit split decision. By following this protocol of case selection, the Court has been designed to be reactive to legislative decisions made in other branches of government, as opposed to an active legislative body that seeks to create and institute new laws. Overall, the result of this design is a Court that prioritizes case selections that will enable them to enforce the uniformity of federal law throughout the country.

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