Well, I can try to translate it out of lawyer-speak. We had two clients who sued the local sheriff’s department for violating their constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. A federal magistrate dismissed the case without trial. The federal appeals court upheld the dismissal. So, we went to the very last place we can go in our legal system: The U.S. Supreme Court.
Trouble is, the Court doesn’t take every case. (And yes, we lawyers capitalize “Court” when we refer to the Supreme Court. It’s a mark of respect. Fear, too.) You have to ask them to take your case, and in an extremely formal document that’s called a “Petition for Writ of Certiorari.” If the Court decides to review your case, then they grant a “Writ of Certiorari” – hence, the abbreviation, “cert.” Basically, it’s the Court’s declaration that the Justices believe your case is worth their time. Only then do you get to actually write a “brief,” telling the Court why the Justices ought to rule your client’s way. (“Brief” is one of those awful legal fictions. Anything with a word limit hovering around 15,000 shouldn’t be called a “brief.”)
So, for my clients, “Cert. denied” means that this is the end of the line. We can close their file, and return to them the four banker’s boxes of documents and evidence that made up their case. And no, we don’t get paid. We did the appeals and certiorari petition pro bono, for free.
FYI, here were the legal questions we wanted the Court to answer:
[i]Does the Fourth Amendment demand that law enforcement officers disclose in a second or subsequent search warrant affidavit information they discovered during an initial search that casts doubt upon the veracity of a confidential informant?
Does the Fourth Amendment demand that law enforcement officers disclose in a second or subsequent search warrant affidavit the absence of items that, based upon their confidential informant’s information, they expected to find?[/i]
I often wondered if the person who decided to use the word “brief” for legal arguments accidentally included an item he wanted to buy from Walmart in the rule book.
Well, I’m sorry your cert was rejected. While I am a fan of the oder of law, I am not a fan of most law enforcement. There seems to be to much of a “we ARE the law” attitude. A little accountability would really hurt them in my opinion.
To sum it up: you submitted your appeal to your supreme court (sorry, I meant Court, of course) early in October and get an answer - well sort of - within two months?
Well, you guys over there, you do live in the fast lane, don’t you?
My wife, who is the lawyer in our outfit here, would be happy if the tiniest local court would even acknowledge the sheer existence of any appeal - case, plea or whatever - within two months. Here, you normally get an “We have it received. Don’t call us, we call you” within two months.
I guess the October-December turnaround sounds pretty fast, when you put it that way.
If I were to take a case revolving around Ohio law to our mid-level appeals court, I’d have 30 days to file the notice that we were appealing, then 40 days to have the record transmitted to the appeals court (including a transcript of any hearings, trial, etc.), 20 days after that to write my brief, my opponent would have 20 days after that to respond, and then I’d have 10 days to write a “reply brief.” It would be another month or two before we would get a date for oral argument, but after oral argument, we could expect the court to take two months or more to make a decision. All in all, we tell our clients that an appeal can take a year.