In admiralty cases, review of court of appeals decisions by the Supreme Court happens generally by certiorari. Reviews by certiorari involve a process whereby a party submits a request to the reviewing court and asks the court to take up the review of the case. If the higher court agrees to hear the case or issue on review, the court issues a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court stands in the same position as the court of appeals regarding the district court’s findings on certiorari from a judgment of a court of appeals reversing a district court judgment.
The review by the Supreme Court is limited to the issue(s) identified in the writ of certiorari. For example, if a party argues that a federal district court mistakenly bifurcated an admiralty trial issue that is not within the questions upon which certiorari has been granted, the U.S Supreme Court will reject the contention to the extent of the party’s argument as to whether one cause of injury is a superseding cause can never be bifurcated from other issues in a trial. The court will refuse to address the party’s argument that the district court abused its discretion in dividing the trial in the way it did.
The case The Monrosa v. Carbon Black Export, 359 U.S. 180 (U.S. 1959), involved a dispute between respondent cargo owner and petitioner vessel owner regarding a provision in the bill of lading. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted certiorari upon the vessel owner’s motion to decline jurisdiction. However, the appellate court revised the decision and stated that “a writ of certiorari may be dismissed as improvidently granted in light of circumstances that were not fully apprehended at the time certiorari was granted. Examination of a case on the merits, on oral argument, may bring into proper focus a consideration which, though present in the record at the time of granting the writ of certiorari, only later indicates that the grant was improvident. While the U.S. Supreme Court decides questions of public importance, it decides them in the context of meaningful litigation. Its function in resolving conflicts among the courts of appeals is judicial, not simply administrative or managerial.” By dismissing the writ, the court held that the writ had been improvidently granted because the provision, as construed against the drafter, could not be interpreted as limiting the maintenance of an action in rem.