There are four ordinary paths that petitions for writs of certiorari take through the Supreme Court of the United States.
The vast majority of the approximately 8,000 petitions for writs of certiorari received each year are denied. Around 80 petitions are granted and, after merits briefing and oral argument, the cases decided in opinions issued by the court. Some petitions present issues that are identical or similar to those in pending cases—these petitions are ordinarily held until the other case is decided and the lower court’s judgment then summarily granted, vacated, and remanded (“GVR’d”) for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court’s decision. Finally, in response to a small number of petitions, perhaps seven each year, the Supreme Court summarily reverses the judgment of a lower court, ordinarily in a per curiam opinion without argument and without additional briefing.
These four paths all involve the Supreme Court’s adjudicatory process working as intended. But sometimes, something goes awry.