Thinking of submitting a case to the Supreme Court? Most likely not. If so, be prepared to have your case rejected. The Supreme Court is extremely selective about the cases it hears typically only taking cases with circuit splits, of great importance, and with issues that have sufficiently percolated through the lower courts. The majority of the high-stakes cases that make their way to the Supreme Court, which the Court actually considers, are attached to experienced attorneys and law firms. This post looks at the few attorneys and law firms that were successful with petitions for writs of certiorari during the last Supreme Court Term (OT 2014).
Less than 1% of petitions were granted during 2014. Many cases were granted and summarily disposed of based on Bank of America v. Caulkett, 135 S. Ct. 1995 (2015) and Johnson v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 12 (2015). There were only four attorneys of record (not counting the OSG) and four private law firms of record that had multiple cert grants.
Based on the Supreme Court’s dockets, the attorneys with multiple grants were Carter Phillips and Stephen McAllister with 3 apiece , and Michael Carvin and Aaron Lindstrom with 2 apiece (interestingly Lindstrom and Carvin each wrote one of the top quality briefs in Friedrichs, which I discussed in a previous post). In terms of their success rates, Phillips submitted 7 petitions for a 43% cert grant rate, McAllister submitted 3 for a perfect grant rate, Carvin submitted 3 for a 67% grant rate, and Lindstrom also submitted 3 for a 67% grant rate as well.
Without counting attorneys more than once when attorneys had cert grants and summary disposals, all other attorneys had one cert grant. These attorneys include John P. Elwood, Anita S. Earls, Daniel D. Domenico, Danielle Spinelli, Matthew A. Kairis, Eric E. Murphy, Danielle Brewer Jones, Edward W. Ciolko, Sharob Abdul-Aziz, Adeel Bashir, Alfrederick Jones, Andrew H. Mohring, Antonio Wynn, Bradley L. Henry, Brian C. Butler, Casey D. Mayer, Donnie W. Nipper, Doris A. Randle-Holt, E. Joshua Rosenkranz, Eric Joseph Brignac, Hopeton Frank Gooden, Ian O. Aiken, J. Matthew Wright, James Whalen, Janice L. Bergmann, Jeffrey C. Rager, Jerome Matthews, Jimmy Coney, Joseph Anthony Franco, Joshua W. Weir, Laura E. Davis, M. Allison Guagliardo, Margaret Foldes, Marsha R. Taubenhaus, Matthew Campbell, Michael Caruso, Michael R. Levine, Noel G. Lawrence, Paul D. Lynch, Peggy Sasso, Richard Mark Upton, Steven A. Feldman, Taiwan Lenard Driver, Tony E. Denson, Tyrone J. Paylor, William J. Browning, Mark London, Steven F. Hubachek, Curt C. Hartman, Kevin Paul Martin, Michael E. Bindas, Jose Delores Vanegas, Barry P. Golob, Dominic E. Massa, Edgar H. Haug, Scott W. Gaylord, Aaron M. Streett, Alphonse A. Gerhardstein, Anthony F. Shelley, Bert W. Rein, Brian Wolfman, Bridget C. Asay, Carl J. Withroe, Carole M. Stanyar, Carolyn E. Shapiro, Christopher Landau, Daniel J. Canon, Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, Edward S. Zas, Emily Maw, Erik S. Jaffe, Ethan P. Davis, F. William Brownell, Geoffrey D. Strommer, Gregory G. Garre, Howard M. Srebnick, James A. Feldman, Jeffrey A. Lamken, Jeffrey T. Green, Jennifer A. Merrigan, John J. Samson, John M. Duggan, Jonathan D. Hacker, Kevin K. Russell, Lewis M. Everett, Mark D. Plaisance, Mark T. Stancil, Matthew L. Guadagno, Michael A. Carvin, Michael A. Carvin, Michael B. Kimberly, Michael W. McConnell, Paul D. Clement, Peter Buscemi, Peter S. Glaser, Rachana A. Pathak, Raed Gonzalez, Robin C. Konrad, Scott A. Keller, Sean Andrew Kirkpatrick, Seth P. Waxman, Stephen B. Bright, Thomas G. Saunders, and Virginia A. Seitz.
As for law firms, there were also four with multiple grants (since I excluded all governments from the law firm analysis the four firms do not merely overlap with the attorneys with multiple grants described above). The firms with multiple grants were Jones Day with two (whose success I also discuss in another post), Kirkland & Ellis with two, WilmerHale with three, and Sidley Austin with five. To look at success rates briefly, Sidley Austin submitted 18 cert petitions for a cert grant rate of 28%, WilmerHale submitted 13 for a 23% grant rate, Kirkland & Ellis submitted 9 for a 22% grant rate, and Jones Day submitted 10 for a 20% grant rate.
Firms with one cert grant during the term include (as listed in the Supreme Court dockets): Baker Botts L.L.P., Bancroft PLLC, Black Srebnick Kornspan & Stumpf P. A., Breeding & Lodato LLC, Clay Daniel Walton Adams PLC, Dorna Lustgarten & Troia PC LLO, Duggan Shadwick Doerr & Kurlbaum LLC, Elon University Law School, Erik S. Jaffe P.C., Everett & Everett, Feldman and Feldman, Frommer Lawrence & Haug LLP, Gerhardstein & Branch Co. LPA, Goldstein & Russell, P.C., Gonzalez Olivieri LLC, Goodwin Procter LLP, Hobbs Strauss Dean & Walker LLP, Hunton & Williams LLP, Innocence Project New Orleans, Institute for Justice, Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP, King & Spalding LLP, Latham & Watkins LLP, Levine & McHenry LLC, London & Mead, Mayer Brown LLP, Miller & Chevalier Chartered, MoloLamken LLP, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck Untereiner & Sauber, LLP, Ropes & Gray LLP, Saint Louis University School of Law, Southern Center for Human Rights, Southern, Coalition for Social Justice, Stanford Law School, Troutman Sanders LLP, University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Wiley Rein LLP.
If this analysis interests you, take a look at my co-authored paper forthcoming in Villanova Law Review that examines these and other cert statistics for the 2001 through the beginning of the 2015 Supreme Court Terms.
This is part one of a two part post examining cert success in 2014 (the second part will focus on amicus curiae).