Certiorari Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Certiorari, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Certiorari?

(n) Certiorari is the order issued by an upper court based on a writ of certiorari to review the decision, order and finings made by the lower court when the upper court is of the opinion that the proceedings in the lower court contains irregularity or they are not proper.

History and Meaning of Certiorari

Certiorari is a Latin term meaning "to be informed" or "to be made certain." It is a legal term used to describe the process of reviewing a case by a higher court - usually an appeals court or a supreme court - to determine whether a lower court made a legal error. This writ is issued by the higher court to the lower court to send the records of a case for review, thereby allowing the higher court to examine the legal questions involved and to decide whether to grant review of the case or not.

The writ of certiorari is used in many common law jurisdictions, including the United States, to allow appellate courts to review cases and to ensure a consistent body of law throughout the country. The concept of writ of certiorari has been part of English law since the 13th century and was adopted by the United States as part of its legal system.

Examples of Certiorari

  1. The United States Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari in Smith v. Jones to review the decision of the lower court.
  2. The appellate court granted a writ of certiorari to determine whether the trial court correctly applied the law.
  3. After the lower court made its decision, the losing party filed a petition for writ of certiorari to seek review by the higher court.
  4. The Supreme Court denied certiorari in a case that had received a lot of media attention, leaving the lower court's decision to stand.
  5. The writ of certiorari was used by the United States Supreme Court to review a case involving the constitutionality of a state law.

Legal Terms Similar to Certiorari

  1. Habeas corpus: a writ that requires a person to be brought before a court to determine whether their detention is lawful.
  2. Mandamus: a writ that orders a government official or agency to perform a duty that they are required to perform by law.
  3. Prohibition: a writ that prevents a lower court or government official from acting outside of their legal authority.