Those familiar with this blog know that the existence of a circuit split in a particular case seeking review enhances the likelihood that the Court will grant certiorari. But what other factors do the justices look for when selecting cases for review? To answer this question, I turned to the Harvard Law Review's annual Supreme Court "term-in-review" issue. Specifically, I compiled the subject-matter data reported for the cases in which the Court granted certiorari and issued full opinions from 2006 through 2010. The chart below reflects the percentage of the Court's docket devoted each term to:
(1) civil actions from inferior federal courts, which includes:
(a) federal government litigation (i.e., review of administrative actions, other actions by/against the U.S. or its officers, and taxation) and
(b) state/local government litigation;
(2) private litigation, which includes:
(a) diversity jurisdiction and
(b) federal question jurisdiction;
(3) federal habeas corpus;
(4) civil actions from state courts, which includes:
(a) state/local government litigation and
(b) private litigation;
(5) state criminal cases; and
(6) original jurisdiction cases.
The chart shows that Court devotes roughly the same percentage of its docket to cases arising under each of these categories. This trend is significant because it suggests that a case's subject matter may enhance or reduce its certworthiness based on the number of similar cases already occupying a spot on the Court's docket in a given term.
*Sources: The Supreme Court 2010 Term--The Statistics, 125 Harv. L. Rev. 362 (2011) (PDF); The Supreme Court 2009 Term--The Statistics, 124 Harv. L. Rev. 411 (2010) (PDF); The Supreme Court 2008 Term--The Statistics, 123 Harv. L. Rev. 382 (2009) (PDF); The Supreme Court 2007 Term--The Statistics, 122 Harv. L. Rev. 516 (2008) (PDF); The Supreme Court 2006 Term--The Statistics, 121 Harv. L. Rev. 436 (2007) (PDF).