Over the past six decades, United States Supreme Court decisions have dramatically reshaped the criminal justice process to provide significant protections for defendants charged in federal and state proceedings, reflecting a remarkable expansion of due process and specific constitutional guarantees. For criminal defendants seeking relief based on recognition of new rules of constitutional criminal procedure, application of existing rules or precedent to novel factual scenarios, or in some cases, enforcement of existing precedent, obtaining relief requires further action on the Court’s part. In those situations, the Court’s exercise of its certiorari jurisdiction is the exclusive remedy offering an avenue for reversal of conviction or order vacating the sentence. Petitioning for review by writ of certiorari is essential to the defendant’s chances for obtaining relief and is what might be characterized as the “final tool” in the appellate lawyer’s “toolbox.” There are at least five scenarios in which the petition for writ of certiorari is critical, and counsel must be aware of circumstances dictating strategic decisions that need to be made in order to protect the client’s options for relief in the direct appeal and post conviction processes.
J. Thomas Sullivan, Ethical and Aggressive Appellate Advocacy: The Decision to Petition for Certiorari in Criminal Cases, 51 St. Mary's L.J. 585 (2020).