How Long Do Criminal Cases at the Illinois Supreme Court Remain Pending?

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Yesterday, we began our review of lag times at the Illinois Supreme Court with a review of the Court’s civil cases from 2010 to 2016.  Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s criminal cases.

We have grant-to-oral argument date for 243 criminal cases, and oral argument-to-decision data for 270 cases.  The mean time in days from grant to oral argument is 274.7869 days – slightly less than three months longer than the average lag time on civil cases.  The average time from argument to decision in criminal cases is 130.4465 days – seven days less that the average for civil cases.  The variability for grant-to-decision is much more than on the civil side: the standard deviation is 91.311.  So about two thirds of the cases in our database fall between 365 and 185 days.  The standard deviation for argument to decision is 81.4502, so two-thirds of the cases fall between 49 and 211 days.

Table 444

Join us back here next Tuesday as we continue our study of the Court’s lag time.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jonathan Kriz (no changes).

How Long Do Civil Cases at the Illinois Supreme Court Remain Pending?

30057327415_ab6e8fb78b_zFor the next couple of weeks, we’ll be taking a brief time off from our look at the Court’s oral arguments in order to look at an issue we’re studying over on California Supreme Court Review – what can be inferred from the average time a case remains pending at the Court, from the allowing of the petition for leave to appeal to the oral argument to the decision?

In California, the time from grant of review to oral argument is most of the total lag time for a case, because the Court is required (with limited exceptions) to decide cases within ninety days of oral argument.  Our task is made a bit more complicated in Illinois because unlike in California, the appellate dockets are not online.  So to calculate the time from grant to argument, we reviewed all of the “Leave to Appeal Dispositions” archived on the Court’s website (this was also the source of our posts called “True Reversal Rates,” calculating the percentage of cases for each district for which PLAs were filed which were not only heard on the merits, but reversed).  On the civil side, our data includes 224 data points from allowance of the PLA to argument, and 239 data points from argument to decision.  (The difference arises from the fact that I haven’t yet figured out where on the court’s site the opening date for a direct appeal – the date analogous to the grant of the PLA – can be determined.)

We report the data for civil cases between 2010 and 2016 in Table 443.  The average wait from the allowance of the petition for leave to appeal and the oral argument is 190.6689 days – just slightly over six months.  The average lag time from oral argument to decision in civil cases during these years has been 137.8833 days.  So when your petition for leave to appeal is allowed in a civil case at the Court, you can expect to get a decision, on average, in ten to eleven months.  There’s not an enormous amount of variability in these numbers.  The standard deviation for the grant-to-argument number is 67.62, meaning that 68% of the cases have fallen between 123 and 257 days.  The standard deviation for the argument-to-decision number is, interestingly, half-again as big – 95.24824.  This suggests that 68% of the argument-to-decision lag times in civil cases have fallen between 42 days and 232 days.  So the time your case will take to come to argument is a good bit more predictable than the time the Court will take to decide the case.

Table 443

Join us back here tomorrow as we take a look at the Court’s criminal cases from 2010 to 2016.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Adam Moss (no changes).

Does a More Active Bench Indicate That the Court Will Reverse in Criminal Cases?

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Yesterday, we established that all things being equal, the Illinois Supreme Court has tended to ask somewhat more questions in civil cases where they reverse than in cases where they affirm.  Today, we address the Court’s criminal cases from 2008 to 2016.

Our database consists of 160 affirmances in criminal cases and 188 reversals.  Once again, we find the losing party averaging more questions.  In affirmances, appellants averaged 18.18 questions to only 8.37 for appellees.  In reversals, appellees averaged 14.39 questions to 13.47 for appellants.  Overall, we see that once again, reversals result in more questions, although the effect is even more mild with criminal cases than with civil cases.  In reversals, the Court has averaged 27.8 questions to 26.49 for affirmances.

Not surprisingly, question totals have been more variable both in affirmances and reversals for the losing party.  In affirmances, the standard deviation for appellants has been 10.43 to 7.06 for appellees.  In reversals, appellants’ standard deviation has been 8.97 to 9.58 for appellees.  For total questions, the standard deviation for affirmances has been 13.54 to 14.58 for reversals.

Table 442

Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn our attention to another issue in studying the Court’s oral arguments.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Matt Turner (no changes).

Does a More Active Bench Indicate That the Court Will Reverse in Civil Cases?

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For the past few weeks, we’ve been studying the Illinois Supreme Court’s oral arguments between 2008 and 2016.  This week, we address a new question: is there a correlation between the result – reversal or affirmance – and the total number of questions?  Or to put it in less mathematical language, does an active bench at oral argument mean that the Court is likely to reverse?

In Table 441, we report the average questions to appellants, to appellees, and total to both sides in civil cases, divided by affirmances and reversals.  We see that the answer to our initial question is yes – although the effect isn’t dramatic, all other things being equal, a more active bench suggests a reversal.  On both sides, we see the result we identified a few weeks ago: the loser gets more questions.  Our data consists of 118 affirmances and 177 reversals in civil cases since 2008.  In affirmances, appellants have averaged 18.21 questions to only 8.773 for appellees. For reversals, there’s only a slight difference between the sides: appellees average 14.994 questions to 14.612 for appellants.  In civil affirmances, the Court has averaged 26.899 questions, as compared to 29.624 in reversals.

Questions to appellants are about equally scattered, regardless of whether there’s an affirmance or reversal.  The standard deviation of the calculation for appellants in affirmances is 9.54 to 9.63 in reversals.  But for appellees, there was a difference.  The standard deviation for appellees in reversals was 9.07 to 6.14 for appellees.  As a result of that, total questions in reversals were more variable than affirmances – the standard deviation for reversals was 15.7 to 12.18 for affirmances.

Table 441

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s oral arguments in criminal, quasi-criminal, juvenile and disciplinary cases since 2008.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Roger W. (no changes).

Does a Dissent at the Appellate Court Mean a More Active Bench at Oral Argument in Criminal Cases?

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Yesterday, we determined that a dissent below, all things being equal, will lead to at least a slightly more active oral argument for appellees.  The data for appellants is more variable – the averages are virtually identical, but the numbers vary widely from case to case.  So what’s the answer for criminal cases?

Between 2008 and 2016, the Court has decided 262 criminal cases which were unanimously decided at the Appellate Court.  The Court has decided 78 cases which were unanimous below.  For appellants, a dissent below does mean at least a slightly more active oral argument.  No-dissent appellants have averaged 15.14 questions per argument.  Appellants in cases with dissents have averaged 17.42.  The spread of the data suggests that the difference is sometimes much greater than that.  The standard deviation for appellants in no-dissent cases is 9.3.  The standard deviation for appellants where there was a dissent below is 11.77.

A dissent below has some impact on an appellee’s argument as well.  Appellees in cases with no dissent below averaged 11.37 questions.  Appellees in cases with a dissent below averaged 12.85.  Once again, there is evidence that the impact is greater in at least some cases.  The standard deviation for appellees in no-dissent cases is 8.8, but the standard deviation for appellees in cases with a dissent below is 9.55.

Table 440

Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn our attention to another issue in our analysis of the Court’s oral arguments.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Matt Turner (no changes).

Does a Dissent at the Appellate Court Mean a More Active Bench at Oral Argument in Civil Cases?

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For the past several weeks, we’ve been comparing the level of questioning at the Court in civil and criminal cases to various facts about the underlying case, searching for factors which explain how active the Court is at oral argument.  This week, we turn our attention to a new possibility: is a dissent at the Appellate Court a reliable signal of a more active oral argument?  One can easily imagine the answer might be yes – if a case divided the Appellate Court, it might give the Supreme Court a lot to talk about at oral argument.

In Table 439, we report the average questions in civil cases to appellants and appellees, divided between cases which were unanimously decided below and cases which were decided over a dissent.  For the entire nine years, the Court decided 193 civil cases which were unanimous below, and 75 civil cases with a dissent.  Appellants in no-dissent cases averaged 16.82 questions. Appellants in cases where there was a dissent below averaged slightly fewer questions – 16.45 for the entire nine years.  It was a different story for appellees, however.  Appellees in cases where there was no dissent below averaged 10.3 questions, but appellees in cases with a dissent below averaged 14.86 questions, suggesting that dissents at the Appellate Court might cause the Court to press the winning party below just a bit more.  Also, there’s evidence that the number of questions to appellants was quite variable.  The standard deviation for appellants in no-dissent cases was 9.26 questions.  But the standard deviation for appellants in cases with a dissent was 11.63.  In contrast, the standard deviations for appellees were almost identical – in no dissent cases, 8.57, in cases with a dissent below, 8.43.

So what’s it all mean – does a dissent below mean a more active oral argument?  For appellees, the answer appears to be yes, at least a bit.  The difference in the standard deviation on the appellant’s side suggests that for appellants, the answer might be “it depends.”

Table 439

Join us back here tomorrow as we address the Court’s criminal arguments between 2008 and 2016.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Adam Moss (no changes).

How Does the Area of Law Impact the Level of Questioning in Criminal Cases?

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Yesterday, we analyzed how the area of law impacted the total volume of questions during oral argument in civil cases between 2008 and 2016, as well as analyzing how many questions one could expect in the most common areas of law in future cases. Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s criminal docket.

The most active subject for appellants was juvenile issues. Appellants in cases principally involving juvenile issues averaged 21.73 questions per argument. Appellants in the few cases involving the death penalty (before its abolition) and alcohol offenses averaged 20 questions. Not surprisingly, attorney discipline cases tend to be active oral arguments, as appellants average 19.17 questions. Among the most frequent items on the Court’s agenda, criminal procedure appellants averaged 15.77 questions, constitutional law appellants averaged 14.77, appellants in cases involving the law of sentencing averaged 13.57, and appellants in cases involving violent crimes averaged 12.67.

In only two areas – attorney discipline and property crimes (burglary and the like) – did appellees average more questions than their opponents. The busiest appellees were in attorney discipline cases, where appellees have gotten 21.33 questions per argument. Appellees in property crimes have averaged 19 questions. Criminal procedure appellees are next at 14.45, followed by juvenile issues (12.85), habeas corpus (12.66), constitutional law (11.79) and drug offenses (10.5). The most lightly questioned appellees, leaving aside areas with only a scattered few cases, were sex offenses (3.92), vehicle offenses (5.5) and death penalty (4.8).

As we did on the civil side, we also calculated the standard deviation of some of the most frequently heard issues in order to assess how variable the questioning has been. As we noted yesterday, approximately 68% of all results are within one standard deviation plus or minus of the mean.

Juvenile cases have varied widely between more and less active arguments. Appellants in juvenile cases have a standard deviation of 14.914, and appellees were 9.6424. Constitutional law cases were only a bit less – appellants’ standard deviation was 10.8119 to 8.4254 for appellees. Appellants in criminal procedure cases had a standard deviation of 9.68416, and appellees were 9.95733. Appellants in sentencing cases were at 8.6716 to 8.3504 for appellees. Finally, appellants in habeas corpus cases had a standard deviation of 8.3787 to 8.6912 for appellees.

Table 438

Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn our attention to a new topic in our ongoing study of the Court’s oral arguments.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Teemu008 (no changes).

How Does the Area of Law Impact the Level of Questioning at Oral Argument?

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For the past several weeks, we’ve been comparing the data on the number and sequence of the Illinois Supreme Court’s questions at oral argument to various variables, searching for possible predictors of particularly active oral arguments. This week, we’ll be asking whether the area of law involved in a case impacts the level of questioning.

In Table 437, we report the average questions to appellants and appellees in civil cases between 2008 and 2016, divided by the principal area of law involved in each case. The most active bench with respect to appellants – leaving aside the small groups of contract cases (25.67 questions per case) and election law cases (24.14 questions per case) – is employment law, where appellants were asked an average of 21.46 questions. Wills and Estates cases averaged 19.43 questions to appellants, and domestic relations, property and public employee pensions were all just behind (18.95, 18.33 and 18.09, respectively). Taxation averaged 17.64 questions to appellants, constitutional law averaged 16.74, and insurance averaged 16.06. Interestingly, three of the most common areas of law on the Court’s docket, tort law, civil procedure and government and administrative law, were less active on the appellant’s side. Tort appellants averaged 14.29 questions, civil procedure appellants averaged 14.64, and government and administrative law appellants averaged 14.36.

In nearly all subjects across the entire nine year period, appellants averaged more total questions than appellees. The only exceptions were in subjects relatively seldom seen on the Court’s docket: secured transactions, workers compensation, corporate law and arbitration. Collectively, appellees in election law cases averaged the most questions at 19.14. Insurance law appellees were next at 15.19. Appellees in corporate, commercial and contracts law were close behind, averaging 15, 14.5 and 14.33 questions, respectively. Among the more frequent subjects on the Court’s docket, constitutional law appellees averaged 13.44 questions. Appellees in tort averaged 13.35 questions. Appellees in civil procedure averaged 12.8. Appellees in employment law averaged 12.69. Appellees in government and administrative law averaged only 10.06 questions. The largest disparity between appellants and appellees came in employment law, where appellants averaged 8.77 questions more than appellees did, and in contracts law, where appellants averaged 11.34 more questions per argument.

We also investigated how scattered questioning was in the Court’s most frequently heard topics – much confident can an advocate be that his or her case will come in somewhere in the neighborhood of the averages set forth below? The standard deviation for questions to appellants in civil procedure cases was 10.2917. For appellees, it was 9.5722. What this shows is that cases can vary relatively widely. There is roughly a 68% chance that an appellant in a civil procedure case will get between four and twenty-four questions – one standard deviation from the mean. Similarly, an appellee in a civil procedure case will likely receive somewhere between 3 and 22 questions.

Other major topics on the Court’s docket varied a bit less. The standard deviation for questions to appellants in constitutional law was 10.3337. To appellees, it was 8.6296. For appellants in government and administrative law cases, the standard deviation was 7.8108. For appellees, it was 9.4779. The spread was less in tort questioning. For appellants, the standard deviation was 7.8222. For appellees, it was 8.2099.

Table 437

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Ron Frazier (no changes).

How Likely Is It That the First Question in a Criminal Case Comes From a Justice Writing the Majority, a Concurrence or a Dissent?

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Yesterday, we looked at the likelihood that the first question to each side at oral argument in civil cases came from a Justice who would write an opinion – either the majority, a special concurrence or a dissent. Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s criminal cases between 2008 and 2016.

Beginning with appellants, Justice Thomas has written the majority opinion thirty times when he led off questioning of the appellant. Next if Justice Garman at 26. The remainder of the Justices are bunched together – Justice Freeman wrote 16 majorities, Chief Justice Karmeier wrote 15, Chief Justice Fitzgerald and Justice Burke have written twelve and Justice Theis has written 11. The most frequent dissenters when each Justice leads off against the appellants are Justices Thomas and Burke, with five dissents apiece. Justice Thomas leads in terms of cases where he asked the first question of appellant but didn’t write an opinion with 131. Justice Freeman is next at 67, followed by Justice Garman with 50 and Justices Burke and Theis with 40 apiece.

In Table 435, we report the percentage likelihood that each Justice will write an opinion when he or she asks the first question of a criminal appellant. Justice Garman leads at 37.5%. Several Justices are close behind, including Chief Justice Karmeier (33.97%), Justice Burke (31.03%) and Chief Justice Fitzgerald (30.23%). Justice Theis is next, writing in 27.27% of cases where she asked the first question of appellants. Justice Kilbride follows at 26.67%. The likelihood across the whole Court of the first question coming from a Justice who is writing is 27.86%.

Table 435

Among appellees, once again Justice Thomas wrote the most majority opinions when he was first questioner with 22. Only two other Justices were in double figures – Chief Justice Karmeier with 11 and Justice Garman with 10. Justice Burke wrote nine majority opinions when she began the questioning of appellees, as well as five special concurrences and six dissents (both of those numbers were the highest on the Court).

The most frequent writer in cases where he asked the appellees the first question was Chief Justice Karmeier at 41.38%. Justice Burke was next, writing an opinion in 39.22% of cases where she led off. The probabilities of the remaining Justices were quite close, and significantly behind those two Justices. Justice Freeman wrote in 26.92% of cases, Justice Thomas in 25.23%, Justice Garman in 23.81% of cases, Justice Theis in 22.58%, and Justice Kilbride only 20% of the time.

Table 436

Join us back here next Tuesday as we begin work on another question in our ongoing analysis of the Court’s oral arguments.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Benjamin Esham (no changes).

How Likely Is It That the First Question in a Civil Case Comes From a Justice Writing the Majority, a Concurrence or a Dissent?

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Today, we turn our analysis of the Illinois Supreme Court’s oral arguments between 2008 and 2016 to a new question: how likely is it that the Justice who asks the first question in a civil case is writing an opinion?

In Table 433 below, we report the percentage of instances in civil cases in which each Justice asked the first question of appellant and was writing the majority, a special concurrence, or a dissent. For example, on twenty-three occasions, Justice Burke asked the first question of appellant, and wound up writing the majority opinion. Twice she wrote a concurrence, and five times she dissented. In comparison, she led off the questioning of appellant yet didn’t write an opinion in thirty-one cases. Justice Thomas most frequently asked the first question with 124. Justice Freeman was next at 45, followed by Justice Freeman at 38 and Justice Theis at 35. Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion and led off questioning of the appellant 29 times. Justice Burke was second at 23, followed by Justice Theis at 18. Justice Freeman was the most frequent dissenter, leading off the questioning of appellants and writing a dissent in eight cases to Justice Thomas’ seven.

Overall, when Justice Burke asked the first question of appellants, she wrote an opinion 49.18% of the time. Justice Karmeier was second, writing an opinion 47.37% of the time when he led off. Justice Theis was third at 38.6%. Justice Garman was fourth at 29.63%. This measure was the least powerful for two of the most active questioners on the Court. Justice Thomas wrote in 23.46% of cases when he led off to the appellants, and Chief Justice Fitzgerald wrote in 23.08% of cases. No Justice was under 20%, and courtwide, the first questioner to appellants wrote an opinion in 31.07% of cases.

Table 433

So what about appellees? Justice Thomas led, writing the majority twen ty-two times when he asked the first question of appellees. Only two other Justices were in double figures – Justice Garman at 12 and Justice Burke at 10. Justices Garman and Freeman led in dissents, with each writing six dissents in cases where they began the questioning. Overall, 71 times the first question to an appellee came from the author of the majority opinion. Seventeen times, it came from the author of a dissent.

We report the percentages in Table 434. Three Justices – Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Burke and Thomas – are more likely to be writing when they ask the first question of appellant than when they lead off with the appellee. For the other four Justices, lead-off to the appellee is a more powerful predictor of writing an opinion – often by ten to twenty percentage points. Justice Kilbride wrote an opinion in 41.18% of cases where he led off questioning of appellee. Justice Theis was right behind at 40.91%, and Justice Garman was at 39.13%. Three more Justices were tightly bunched right behind Justice Garman – Chief Justice Fitzgerald at 36.36%, Chief Justice Karmeier at 36% and Justice Freeman at 35.48%. Courtwide, the likelihood in civil cases that the first question to appellees came from a Justice writing an opinion was 31.33%.

Table 434

Join us back here tomorrow when we look at the Court’s oral arguments in criminal cases.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Ryan Van Etten (no changes).

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