Monday, April 15, 2013

When The Headlines Don't Tell the Real Story

By Craig

As you are undoubtedly aware, Steve Pappas, the unsuccessful candidate for 3rd District County Supervisor, lost his attempt to have the election results overturned and has paid his opponent Doreen Farr, close to half a million bucks in attorney's fees. Last week, both the News-Press and the Santa Maria Times had virtually the same headline: "Pappas Case Going to U.S. Supreme Court."

Not so fast. All Pappas has done is file a petition with the court asking that it review his case. The Supremes haven't agreed to hear his case and most likely won't be agreeing to consider it on the merits. Saying Pappas' case is going to the Supreme Court is a little like saying that someone who buys a lottery ticket is about to become a multi-millionaire. Actually, I like the ticket buyer's chances better.

From an article in the Daily Journal, a legal newspaper:

The Supreme Court does not exist to correct every flawed decision issued by a lower court. Even with the help of their law clerks, the nine justices could not possibly handle the enormous volume of cases generated if every aggrieved party could call upon the Court to review the merits of each controversy as a matter of right. Therefore, with very limited exceptions, Supreme Court jurisdiction can be invoked only by filing a petition for writ of certiorari (cert petition), which the Court can grant or deny at its discretion. When the Court denies cert, that is the end of the litigation road; the Court will not consider the case on its merits, and the lower-court decision will stand, rightly or wrongly.

To make matters more difficult, the odds of persuading the Supreme Court to grant cert have always been small, but they have decreased even further in the past two decades. The volume of cert petitions filed has increased while the numbers granted each term have declined. Between 1989 and 2009, the Court averaged 7,500 cert petitions each term, yet it granted an average of only 93. Those figures translate into a "grant rate" of only 1.2 percent.

In other words, there's about a 99% chance that Pappas' case won't be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Of course, as a headline, that might not look too good.

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