This is a Latin word. When an appellate court grants certiorari, the court agrees to review the decision of a lower court. Technically, the appellate court is ordering the lower court to allow it to review its decision. Hence, we say the appellate court issues a writ of certiorari, but this is rather old language.
The key to keep in mind is that parties cannot always appeal “as of right”. That is, some appellate courts (usually the highest court in a jurisdiction) can choose which appeals it will accept. The losing party must persuade the appellate court that the legal issue is sufficiently important that the appellate court should agree to hear the case.
For example, the Supreme Court of the United States does not agree to hear every case on appeal. In fact, it rejects most requests. A party that is unhappy with the decision of an inferior court must petition the Supreme Court to agree to review the lower court’s decision. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, we say it grants certiorari. Frequently this is abbreviated in conversation to “grant cert”.
The case was heard at the Supreme Court on writ of certiorari to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court granted cert so now we must brief the case for the Court.« Back to Glossary Index