US Supreme Court Filing Guide for Paid Cases

Supreme Court petitions filed by attorneys, known as "paid cases," must comply with formatting rules set by the Court. These guidelines can be found in Rule 33.1 of the Rules of the Court.

Attorneys working on a Supreme Court writ must submit all petitions and other documents both electronically and on paper. To file electronically, you must register in the court's online filing system. Approval can take a few days, so the Court advises applying well before your filing deadline.  Materials sealed by a lower court should not be submitted electronically. 

According to the Clerk of the Court, some of the most common mistakes in Supreme Court filings include:

  • Paper size: Petitions must be presented on paper that is 6 1⁄8 by 9 1⁄4 inches, not typical 8 1⁄2 by 11 printer paper.
  • Typeset: Petitions must be written using a font from the Century family (Century Expanded, Century Schoolbook, etc.) in 12-point type for body text and 10-point type for footnotes with 2-point "leading between lines." In most word processors, you can ensure line spacing is correct by formatting it to be exactly 14 points for the body text and exactly 12 points for footnotes. The court will not accept petitions produced on a typewriter. 
  • Case caption: The caption on your cover page must list the petitioner first, even if they were the defendant in the lower court. 
  • Page numbers: The pages containing questions presented for review, the list of parties, the table of contents, and the table of authorities are numbered using i, ii, iii, and so on. When you reach the text of the petition, page numbers start over and are numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on.
  • Length: The text of a petition for cert cannot exceed 9,000 words. Paid petitions longer than 1,500 words must include a table of contents and a table of authorities.
  • Binding: The petition and appendices must be bound firmly in at least two places on the left margin. Perfect binding or saddle stitching is preferred; however, staples are acceptable if they are covered with tape. Do not use spiral, plastic, metal, or string binding. 
  • Timing: Parties have 90 calendar days (not three months) from the date of the judgment, order, opinion, or denial by the lower court to submit a petition for certiorari. 

Any appendices (such as lower court orders) must also follow the page and typeset requirements. The Court will not accept photocopies from the Federal Supplement or Federal Reporters. Instead, someone will need to reproduce these documents verbatim. 

The Supreme Court provides additional rules and guidance, including instructions for amicus briefs and a summary of recent rule changes

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