Filing an Appeal with the Indiana Supreme Court

How do I get my appeal started?

Remember, most appeals start in the Court of Appeals. In order to ask for a review by the Indiana Supreme Court, the party who lost at the Court of Appeals level files a petition to transfer within 45 days of its decision if a petition for rehearing was not sought or 30 days after the Court of Appeals' disposition of a petition for rehearing. What happens next is a little different, depending on whether it is a civil or a criminal case. When a petition to transfer is filed with the Indiana Supreme Court in a civil case, the Clerk of the Courts sends the case to the Office of Supreme Court Administration where staff attorneys summarize all of the papers and forward the information to each of the five justices. In criminal cases, there is no initial review by a staff attorney. Instead, these appeals go directly to the justices.

How do the Justices choose which cases to accept?

After the justices have reviewed the materials for each case requesting a petition to transfer, they meet in conference to talk about them. At their meetings, the justices take turns, from the newest justice to the Chief Justice, giving their opinions on whether the court should accept or deny a transfer of the case. At this meeting the justices also decide whether or not to hold an oral argument. When at least three justices vote to reject the case, the request for transfer is denied. When the transfer is denied, the Court notifies the Clerk of the Courts of their decision, and the appellate process ends. If, on the other hand, at least three justices vote to hear the case, the transfer is granted. The justices then decide who will write the opinion of the court. No one outside of the court knows who will write the opinion until it is officially published. Once a draft opinion is written, the justice shares it with the other justices. Each justice reads and votes on each part of the opinion, including any concurring or dissenting opinions.

Remember, there are some cases where the Supreme Court must hear the case, such as death penalty cases. These cases come directly to the Supreme Court from a trial court. There is no petition to transfer and the justices do not vote on whether or not to hear the case. Oral arguments are usually heard in every death penalty case.

In cases that come directly to the Indiana Supreme Court, the losing party may ask the court to reconsider its decision by filing a petition for rehearing with the Indiana Supreme Court. The court's decision on such a request is final.

Publishing the Court's Decision

After an opinion has been reviewed and voted on by each justice, the opinion and all of the case material is sent back to the Clerk of the Courts. All opinions of the Indiana Supreme Court are published in a series of law books, North Eastern Reporter, and on the Internet at

Can I appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court?

The appeal process in Indiana is finished once the Supreme Court has made its final decision on transfer or rehearing. Once the appeal process in Indiana is concluded, the losing party may ask the United States Supreme Court to review the case. This is called a petition for a writ of certiorari. To do this, the losing party must convince the U.S. Supreme Court that the trial court made a very important mistake interpreting federal law, such as the statues enacted by Congress or the U.S. Constitution, and that the Indiana appellate courts did not fix the error. However, on questions of state law, a decision of the Indiana Supreme Court cannot be appealed any further.

The U.S. Supreme Court is not required to take the case. The U.S. Supreme Court reviews only a very small number of cases each year. The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to review the case concludes the appeal process. 


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