Theodore P Watson. For government contractors involved in legal disputes, the ultimate goal may be to have their case heard by the highest court in the land—the United States Supreme Court. However, the path to obtaining a hearing before the Supreme Court is not a straightforward one.
It often requires a writ of certiorari, a legal document that determines whether the Supreme Court will review a lower court’s decision. In this blog post, we will explore what a writ of certiorari is, how it works, and what government contractors should keep in mind when seeking an appeal before the US Supreme Court.
Understanding What is a Writ of Certiorari:
A writ of certiorari, often abbreviated as “cert,” is a formal request made by a party to a lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision. The Supreme Court receives thousands of petitions each year, but it only grants a small percentage of them. A writ of certiorari is the mechanism by which the Supreme Court selects cases it believes are of significant legal importance or present conflicting interpretations of the law.
Understanding What is a Writ of Certiorari:
1. Filing the Petition: As a government contractor seeking to appeal your case, you or your legal representative will file a petition for a writ of certiorari. This petition outlines the key legal issues at stake, why the Supreme Court should consider the case, and argues that the lower court’s decision warrants review.
2. Review by the Supreme Court Justices: The Supreme Court justices review the petitions for certiorari during their weekly conferences. Each justice considers the petitions and may discuss them with their law clerks. To grant a writ of certiorari, at least four justices must agree that the case merits review.
3. Factors Influencing Granting Certiorari: The Supreme Court generally looks for cases that involve important constitutional issues, conflicts between different courts of appeals or state courts, and cases that have national significance or broad implications. Additionally, the Court may consider whether the lower court’s decision conflicts with prior Supreme Court decisions or if it presents an opportunity to clarify or develop the law.
4. The Grant or Denial: If the Supreme Court grants a writ of certiorari, the case moves to the next stage, where the parties submit briefs and present oral arguments before the Court. If the writ is denied, the lower court’s decision stands, and the case concludes at that level.
Tips for Government Contractors Seeking a Writ of Certiorari:
1. Consult Experienced Counsel: The process of seeking a writ of certiorari requires a thorough understanding of Supreme Court procedures and the legal standards for granting cert. Engaging experienced appellate attorneys familiar with the Supreme Court is crucial for maximizing your chances of success.
2. Identify Significant Legal Issues: Clearly identify the constitutional, statutory, or legal issues in your case that have broad implications beyond your specific circumstances. Articulate why the Supreme Court’s intervention is necessary to provide guidance or resolve conflicts in the law.
3. Show Circuit Split or Conflict: If there is a split among different circuit courts or state courts on an important legal issue relevant to your case, highlight this conflict to strengthen your argument for Supreme Court review.
4. Follow Supreme Court Rules: Carefully adhere to the Supreme Court’s rules and guidelines when preparing and filing your petition in a government contracts appellate case. Failure to comply with these rules can jeopardize the chances of the Court considering your case.
5. Seek Amicus Support: Consider reaching out to interested organizations or individuals who may support your case and file amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in support of your petition. These briefs can bolster the importance and significance of your government contracts appeal case in the eyes of the Supreme Court.
What are Actual Government Contracting Cases Where the US Supreme Court Granted Certiorari?
1. Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States (2016):
This case involved a dispute over the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) interpretation of a law designed to promote veteran-owned small businesses. Kingdomware Technologies, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, challenged the VA’s practice of using a “rule of two” approach to award contracts. The Supreme Court ultimately held that the “rule of two” requirement, which obligates the VA to consider setting aside contracts for veteran-owned small businesses, applies to all contracts, including those using the Federal Supply Schedule.
2. Weyerhaeuser Co. v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service (2018):
In this case, Weyerhaeuser Co., a timber company, challenged the designation of private land as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Supreme Court reviewed the interpretation of “critical habitat” and the criteria for designating land as such. The Court held that an area must first be habitat for a species before it can be deemed “critical habitat” and that an agency’s decision not to exclude an area due to economic impacts should be subject to judicial review.
Must You Hire a Government Contracts Appellate Attorney to Appeal Your Case?
Government contract disputes can be complex, and if you believe your case has been wrongly decided or you have been wrongfully denied a government supply schedule, then it is important to consult with a qualified appellate attorney. An appellate attorney can review the facts of your case and advise on the best course of action for appealing the decision.
A knowledgeable government contracts appellate attorney will be able to assess the strength of your case and provide guidance on the available legal remedies. Furthermore, an appellate attorney will be familiar with the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, as well as applicable state laws that may apply to your case. They can also help you understand the process for filing an appeal in court or at an administrative hearing.
When filing a writ or certiorari to the US Supreme Court on government contracts appeal case, an experienced federal contract attorney can identify the specific issues being challenged, as well as the legal grounds for making such a challenge. They can also provide advice on how to present arguments in order to maximize your chances of success. An appellate attorney will have an understanding of the court’s jurisprudence and be able to craft legal briefs that are persuasive and effective.
In addition, if you choose to appeal your government contracts case, an experienced federal appellate lawyer can help ensure that all the necessary documentation is filed in a timely manner and that any relevant new evidence or legal arguments are presented properly. An attorney may also be able to assist with negotiating a favorable settlement between you and the other party should it become necessary.
Securing a writ of certiorari from the US Supreme Court is a significant achievement for government contractors seeking to appeal a lower court’s decision. However, the process is complex and highly selective. Understanding the intricacies of the writ of certiorari, presenting compelling legal arguments, and following the Supreme Court’s procedures diligently are vital for increasing the chances of obtaining Supreme Court review. By partnering with knowledgeable legal counsel and paying attention to the requirements, government contractors can navigate the appeals process effectively and present their cases for consideration before the highest court in the land.
For help appealing an adverse decision, call our government contracts appellate lawyers at 1.866.601.5518.