What, if anything, prevents the Supreme Court from perpetually denying all petitions for certiorari?

2 Answers 2


No law prevents this -- the court may use its judgement on which petitions to accept. Under the current rules, any petition which four Justices choose to accept will be accepted and given a hearing. The traditions of the court indicate various reason for acceptance, but these are not legally binding. No Court to date has failed to accept a significant number of petitions for "cert".


In addition to David Siegel's excellent answer:

Strictly speaking, if the Supreme Court did not hear any cases, (and presumably it was that there were some cases they should have heard), the Supreme Court justices could be impeached by the House of Representatives, and then removed from office by the Senate.

The relevant offenses are "high crimes and misdemeanors", which is vague by design, and part of the impeachment process is determining what specific "high crimes and misdemeanors" have been allegedly committed.

(A side note: to date, two US Presidents and one US Supreme Court justice have been impeached by the House of Representatives, but none have been removed by the Senate.)

Presumably, the President and Senate would presumably select replacements that would take more cases for consideration.

That said, in the present 2018-2019 session, the US Supreme Court has approximately 75 cases before it(https://www.oyez.org/cases/2018), which works out to a little less than a working week per case over the year.

  • So the checks-and-balances on the Supreme Court is Congress.
    – Geremia
    Mar 22, 2019 at 21:33
  • Note that the Court could deny all cert petitions and still hear a significant number of appeals from lower federal courts -- cert petitions are used to bring up state cases. Moreover there are some state cases which come by different procedural routes. Mar 22, 2019 at 23:06
  • The House may pass Articles of Impeachment for anything it decides constitutes an impeachable offense. The Senate may convict on any Impeachment it thinks fit. There are no enforceable standards beyond the judgement of members of Congress. One President (Nixon) and one Justice (Fortas) resigned in the face of probable Impeachment. Several lower level federal judges have been impeached and removed from office, mostly for official corruption, I believe. Mar 22, 2019 at 23:12
  • And in addition to the cases it decides to hear, the Court spends quite a lot of time screening cases to select the ones to be heard. I believe that over 4000 cases have been presented for court attention in most recent years. Mar 22, 2019 at 23:15
  • 1
    @BenVoigt: I'm answering on the second question, contained in the body: "What, if anything, prevents the Supreme Court from perpetually denying all petitions for certiorari?" Answer: If the Supreme Court does nothing, they could potentially be removed by Congress.That this remedy is not specific to this scenario does not make it useless.
    – sharur
    Mar 25, 2019 at 15:35

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