There are a lot of numbers thrown out about the likelihood of a cert. petition being granted. The number I’ve always heard is 1%, but I sometimes hear numbers as high as 5%.

According to statistics from the Supreme Court, between June 30, 2011 and July 2, 2012, the Court disposed of 7,654 appeals and granted 63 for oral argument (.862%). That doesn’t count GVRs, but with those, it is safe to say the rate of grant is about 1% for all cert. petitions.

If you want to break up petitions into paid and IFP petitions — the most obvious division among all appeals filed at the Court — the following table provides a breakdown of the cases disposed of and granted during a twelve-month period between June 2011 and July 2012:

Paid IFP Total
Disposed 1564 6090 7654
Granted 59 7 66
Percentage 3.77% .114% .862%

Of course, last year was a slight aberration because the Court decided fewer cases after oral argument than it had in at least the past twenty years. But data from the previous year confirms that the past year was only a slight deviation from the norm. During the previous twelve-month period, the Court granted 76 of 1580 paid petitions (4.8%), 14 of 6245 IFP petitions (.224%), and 90 of 7825 all petitions filed (1.15%). Here are averages of the past 10 years:

Paid IFP Total
Disposed 1674.3 6384.6 8058.9
Granted 71.8 11 82.8
Percentage 4.29% .172% 1.03%

If you need to tell someone how likely it is that a petition will be granted, here is a cheat sheet:

  • Overall: 1%
  • Paid petition: 4%
  • IFP petition: .1%

4 Responses to “Likelihood of a Petition Being Granted”

  1. 1 pdgpa

    If anyone ever creates an algorithm for reviewing — or goes to the trouble of hand-sorting — a thousand or more randomly selected petitions (consecutive filings, or something) to eliminate from the base those with zero chance of being granted (totally case-specific, no real reason why cert should be granted other than petitioner complaining of having lost below, or no federal question presented, or both), then I’ll be interested in the statistical chance of one of the remaining petitions’ being granted. I’d bet it’s closer to 10% or more. Otherwise, you inevitably lump together in the IFP category totally worthless and legitimately hopeless pro se petitions in routine criminal, civil, or civil rights cases, with the excellent and sensible petitions filed by Federal Public Defender Offices, for example, of which several are granted every Term.

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