For an appeal to get to the Supreme Court, four of nine justices must agree to hear it.  Should the number be four, or higher, or even lower?Be sure to state at least two concrete reasons to...

For an appeal to get to the Supreme Court, four of nine justices must agree to hear it.  Should the number be four, or higher, or even lower?

Be sure to state at least two concrete reasons to support your answers, and explain each of the reasons in a full paragraph.

2 Answers | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The court's power of discretionary review is something that has come to define it.  I think that part of this process means that there is a strong discretion used to assess whether or not a case merits being presented in front of the justices.  If this is the case, four seems like a good number to me.  I think that at a certain point the number becomes a bit on the arbitrary side.  (2 over 3, five over six, and so on.)  The number of four might be a good number because it shows a plurality and does not "tip" the hand of the court to see which way it would vote on a particular issue.  I think that four keeps the number in favor of the court's time honored tradition of discretionary review, where a number of cases are heard, but are done so on what the court would feel is worthy enough to be presented.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that four is a good enough number and so I think that there is no clear need to raise or lower that.  I think we should keep the "rule of four."

If we raised the number, it would block too many cases from coming to the Court and it would deprive the justices of chances to hear cases on which they might change their minds.  In other words, with the rule of four, justices can hear cases even if the majority does not think the case is worthwhile.  But if four of them do think it is worthwhile, all the justices get to fully consider the case and may have a chance to change their opinions.  So having the number at four allows more borderline cases to be heard.

However, if we lowered the number to 3 or lower, it seems to me that too many cases would make it to the Court.  These would be cases that are much more marginal -- ones where at least 2 justices would have to change their minds in order for the lower court's ruling to be overturned.  It seems that this would clog the Court's docket with cases where the outcome is almost certainly assured.

We’ve answered 318,944 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question