Cert pool

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The "cert. pool" is a mechanism by which the U.S. Supreme Court manages the influx of petitions for certiorari to the court. It was instituted in 1973, as one of the institutional reforms of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger.

Purpose and operation

Each year, the Supreme Court receives thousands of petitions for certiorari; in 2001 the number stood at approximately 7,500, and had risen to 8,241 by October Term 2007. The Court will ultimately grant approximately 80 to 100 of these petitions, in accordance with the rule of four. The workload of the court would make it difficult for each Justice to read each petition; instead, in days gone by, each Justice's law clerks would read the petitions and surrounding materials, and provide a short summary of the case, including a recommendation as to whether the Justice should vote to hear the case.

This situation changed in the early 1970s, at the instigation of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. In Burger's view, particularly in light of the increasing caseload, it was redundant to have nine separate memoranda prepared for each petition and thus (over objections from Justice William Brennan) Burger and Associate Justices Lewis Powell, Byron White, Harry Blackmun and William Rehnquist created the cert pool. Today, all Justices except Justice Samuel Alito participate in the cert pool. Justice Alito withdrew from the pool procedure late in 2008.

The operation of the cert pool is as follows: Each participating Justice places his or...
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