The U.S.Supreme Court is the only federal court mentioned by name in the Constitution,which spells out the general contours of the High Court jurisdiction.Although the Supreme Court is usually thought ofas an appel-late tribunal,it does have some general original jurisdiction.Probably the most important subject ofsuch jurisdiction is a suit between two or more states.
The High Court shares original ju-risdiction (with the U.S.districtcourts) in certain cases brought by or against foreign ambassadors or con-suls,in cases between the United States and a state,and in cases commenced by a state against citizens of another state or another country.In situations such as these,where jurisdiction is shared,the courts are said to have con-current jurisdiction.Cases over which the Supreme Court has original juris-diction are often important,but they do not constitute a sizable proportion of the overall caseload.In recent years less than 1 percent ofthe High Court docket consisted ofcases heard on original jurisdiction.
The U.S.Constitution declares that the Supreme Court shall have appel late Jurisdiction...under such Regula-tions as the Congress shall make.Over the years Congress has passed much legislation setting forth the “Regulation ”sdetermining which cases may appear before the nation most august judicial body.Appeals may reach the Supreme Court through two main avenues.First,there may be appeals from all lower federal consti-tutional and territorial courts and also from most,but not all,federal legisla-tive courts.Second,the SupremeCourt may hear appeals from the highest court in a state -as long as there is a substantial federal question.
Most of the High Courts docke consists ofcases in which it has agreed to issue a writ ofcertiorari a discretionary action.Such a writ (which must be supported by at least four jus-tices) is an order from the Supreme Court to a lower court demanding that it send up a complete record of a case so that the Supreme Court can re-view it.Historically,the Supreme Court has agreed to grant the petition for a writ ofcertiorari in only a tiny proportion of cases usually less than 10 percent ofthe time,and in re-cent years the number has been closer to 1 percent.
Another method by which the Supreme Court exercises its appellate jurisdiction is certification.This pro-cedure is followed when one of the ap-peals courts asks the Supreme Court for instructions regarding a question of law.The justices may choose to give the appellate judges binding instruc-tions,or they may ask that the entire record be forwarded to the Supreme Court for review and final judgment.