How expensive to take a case to the Supreme Court?

Let’s say I have a suit whose merits are such that it will be appealed either by me or by the government (federal or state) to the Supreme Court of the United States. Let’s say that I’m bearing the cost of my suit- no one will take the case pro bono and I need to hire a top notch law firm if I want a serious chance of winning. Just what could this cost me? If useful as a comparison, how much did Heller or McDonald have to spend on their cases to get a Supreme Court decision?

As much as the lawyer has the guts to charge you I would assume.

I believe a wealthy Libertarian named Robert Levy personally financed the suit and selected Heller as the plaintiff. (source: New York Times article). Heller spent nothing.

In the article, Levy says that the market rate for the case is a half-million, but he hadn’t paid nearly that much

Misread OP, sorry

It ranges from zero to infinity.

Clarence Gideon got a hearing from the Supreme Court from an appeal he wrote with prison issued pencils and stationery.

But most appeals (over 95%) to the Supreme Court are denied. And you can’t make the Court hear a case. The only people who can decide the court should hear a case are the justices themselves. So no law firm is going to be able to promise you a Supreme Court hearing.

There’s also this guy, a Cleveland solo practitioner who won at the Supreme Court this year:
http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/cleveland_solo_gets_a_supreme_court_win_ex-prisoners_625k_award_is_reinstat/

He didn’t take the case pro bono but neither was there a traditional hourly fee – Ms. Ortiz client gave him the title to her Jeep and a handmade afgan as payment.

A case would have to have already made its way through the appeals process in order to be considered by SCOTUS. I’m having a hard time understanding why you would start the process of looking for a law firm so late in the game.

Having said that, I’d be surprised if you were unable to find pro bono representation for a case that the court had agreed to hear. Shocked, even.

What I should have been clearer in the OP was how much to take a case all the way through the system, from the first court all the way up to the top.

But it’s like asking “how much money would it cost me to win an Olympic gold medal?”

You’re probably going to need money to do it but the amount of money you spend isn’t going to be the deciding factor in whether or not you succeed.

I didn’t say I’d succeed. I just asked how much to try.

My point is that it’s the legal issues raised by your case which will decide how much of a chance it has of being heard by the Supreme Court. And hiring expensive lawyers will not alter the legal issues.

Well, wouldn’t top flight attorneys presumably make better and more compelling arguments to have it be considered than less notable attorneys?

Not necessarily. Nearly 20 years ago, I needed an attorney quickly for a real estate deal, and selected one based on the advice of the seller’s attorney (the real estate deal was a friendly deal between people who knew each other for decades - the only reason we didn’t both use the same lawyer was his concerns about conflict of interest).

Anyway, this attorney had a hole-in-the-wall office in a run-down building in the middle of what could only be described as urban blight. Hanging on the wall of his office was a faded newspaper clipping of him talking about a Supreme Court case he’d just won.

Ok, let’s try this again:
IF my case goes all the way to the Supreme Court, how much will it end up costing?

I’d agree. A defendant in a capital case can receive it for free. A defendant in a civil case probably has to mortgage the farm.

The fees are fairly typical of court fees though. Even the returned check fee - (who would dare?)

There’s no answer. It’s like asking “IF I commission a piece of art, how much will it cost?” It depends on too many factors to be answerable.

I believe my previous posts pin the range from “$500,000” to “a used Jeep plus a hand-knitted afgan.”

It sounds like if (based on the comments of others here) that if you get that far, and they have agreed to hear the case, there will be no shortage of attorneys (or institutions with the resources to hire attorneys) willing to work the case more or less pro bono just for a chance to argue the case before the Supreme Court. So if you get that far, and you case is (assumedly) on some constitutional level “interesting” you may be able to get your representation practically free.

Quite so, since even pro bono lawyers may themselves get something out of the case: invaluable experience, prestige, facetime with the Supremes, bragging rights, future clients, etc.

Two articles that may be of interest:

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/pro_bono_counsel_loses_supreme_court_case_but_gets_ginsburg_shout_out
http://www.businessinsider.com/big-firm-lawyers-tried-to-scare-small-firm-lawyer-from-supreme-court-case-2009-12