This time, we’re reviewing the data on final judgments in criminal cases for the years 2000 through 2009.  First, we calculate the percentage of non-death criminal cases that arose from final judgments of conviction.  Then, we add the share of the overall docket accounted for by death penalty appeals before the state of Illinois finally abolished the death penalty in 2011.

As shown in Table 1788, the percentage of criminal cases accounted for by final judgments and death penalty appeals during this period steadily increased between 2000 and 2009.  In 2000, only 22.09% of the non-death criminal cases were from final judgments, and only 41.86% of the cases overall were either from final judgments or death cases.  That fell to 27.69% in 2003, but steadily rose from there to 48.39% in 2004, to 47.46% in 2005, to 66% in 2006, and after a brief dip in 2007 and 2008, to 61.54% in 2009.

Join us back here next time as we review the civil and criminal data for the years 2010 through 2020.

Image courtesy of Pixabay by 12019 (no changes).

Last week, we began our review of a new question: is the conventional wisdom which posits that the Supreme Court only reviews final judgments (making a petition for review under any other circumstances a waste of time and money) really true?  This week, we’re reviewing the data for the years 2000 through 2009.

As shown in Table 1787, the percentage of the Court’s civil cases which arose from final judgments was relatively stable, edging slightly up during the decade.  In 2000, 65.79% of the Court’s civil cases were final judgments.  That fell to 58.82% in 2001 and (after a one-year blip up) 58.7% in 2003.  By 2005, two-thirds of the civil cases arose from final judgments.  Although that fell a bit in 2006 and a bit more in 2007, by 2008, 71.43% of the civil cases were from final judgments.  In 2009, 73.17% were.

Join us back here this coming week as we review the data across the past eleven years.

Image courtesy of Pixabay by bd_advtravlr (no changes).

This time, we’re reviewing the share of appeals accounted for by final judgments in the 1990s.  As a reminder, we’re defining “criminal” broadly to include quasi-criminal cases such as habeas corpus, as well as juvenile justice cases.  Until 2011 when Illinois abolished the death penalty, we also include direct appeals to the Supreme Court from death penalties in the trial courts.

During this decade, the percentage of cases which were either final judgments from the Appellate Court or death penalty appeals was fairly stable.  In 1990, 60.87% of criminal appeals were either one or the other.  In 1991, it was almost the same – 59.65%.  The share rose to 65.12% in 1993 before falling into the low fifties, and then back to 64.81% in 1996.  By 1999, it was back down to 50.94%.

Join us back here next week as we review the data for the decade 2000 to 2009.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Randy Wick (no changes).

We’ve all heard it any number of times: the appellate courts only review final judgments.  Even if you can figure out a theory to take a non-final judgment up, the appellate courts won’t decide it on the grounds that it isn’t necessary – let it percolate out, and maybe the case will settle, or the case may moot out another way.  But is it really true?

For the next three weeks, we’re reviewing the share of appeals accounted for by final judgments – first civil cases, one decade at a time, then criminal cases.

From 1990 through 1992, the share of final judgments in civil cases was at its lowest level – 42.7% in 1990, 43.4% in 1991, 47.83% in 1992.  It rose nearly twenty points in 1993 to 65.79%.  The share edged down into the fifties for most of the rest of the decade before rising to 65.85% in 1999.

Join us back here next time as we review the data for criminal cases in the 1990s.

Image courtesy of Flickr by GPA Photo Archive (no changes).

So we’ve determined that a dissent at the Appellate Court is only a moderate indication that reversal is statistically more likely at the Supreme Court in civil cases.  So what about criminal cases?

Between 2010 and 2020, 64% of criminal cases with a dissent below were reversed at the Supreme Court.  The reversal rate for unanimous criminal decisions was 53.33%.

In all, the reversal rate for divided decisions was higher than for unanimous decisions in ten of the eleven years between 2010 and 2020.  Lopsided years were 2011 (66.67% for divided decisions, 47.22% for unanimous ones); 2013 (100% to 54.55%); 2016 (85.71% to 60.71%); and 2017 (57.14% to 44.44%).

Across the entire thirty-one years from 1990 to 2020, divided criminal decisions were reversed 65.57% of the time, while unanimous decisions were reversed 47.16% of the time.  So yes, the presence of a dissent at the Appellate Court means that reversal at the Supreme Court in a criminal case is significantly more likely.

Join us back here next time as we begin another new topic.

Image courtesy of Flickr by David Wilson (no changes).

For the past two weeks, we’ve been continuing our review of the data on dissents at the Appellate Court, asking whether a dissent below indicates that a reversal at the Supreme Court is more likely.  This time, we’re reviewing the data on civil cases for the years 2010 through 2020.

Across the entire period, once again a dissent at the Appellate Court indicated that reversal was at least a bit more likely in civil cases: 65.98% of cases with a dissent below were reversed, while 56.71% of cases decided unanimously were reversed.

Divided decisions were reversed at a higher rate in 8 of the 11 years between 2010 and 2020.  The more lopsided totals included 2010 (66.67% for dissent below, 47.61% for unanimous decisions), 2012 (100% to 67.86%) and 2017 (80% to 43.75%).

So what’s the bottom line?  Across the last thirty-one years, from 1990 to 2020, 64.04% of civil cases with a dissent at the Appellate Court were reversed by the Supreme Court.  Unanimous decisions were reversed at a rate of 55.38%.

Join us back here next time as we review the data for criminal cases in the same years.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Gary Todd (no changes).

Once again, a dissent at the Appellate Court was a strong indicator that the Supreme Court was more likely to reverse in criminal cases between 2000 and 2009.  For the ten year period, 68.69% of cases with a dissenter below were reversed by the Supreme Court, while only 46.36% of cases decided unanimously at the Appellate Court were reversed.  Divided decision reversals led unanimous decision reversals in eight of ten years.  The numbers were frequently lopsided: 2001 (80% reversal of divided criminal decisions, 41.51% unanimous decisions); 2002 (71.43% to 44.44%); 2003 (77.78% to 37.5%); 2004 (88.89% to 52.27%); 2007 (87.5% to 65%); 2008 (69.23% to 48.65%) and 2009 (66.67% to 50%).

Join us back here next week as we examine the data for the years 2010 through 2020.

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

Just as was true in the 1990s, the presence of a dissenter at the Appellate Court was a mild-to-moderate indicator between 2000 and 2009 that a reversal was more likely in a civil case.  Across the ten years, 61.4% of cases with a dissenter at the Appellate Court were reversed by the Supreme Court, while 53.18% of cases decided unanimously below were reversed.

As we can see in Table 1781, the two data points didn’t diverge much year by year either; although dissenter-below cases were more likely to be reversed in eight of ten years, the difference was minor ini eight of those ten years.  The sole exceptions were 2006, when two-thirds of dissenter-below cases were reversed as compared to 35.14% of no-dissenter cases, and 2007, when once again two-thirds of dissenter-below cases were reversed and 46.15% of no-dissenter cases were.

Join us back here tomorrow as we review the data in criminal cases for thee same period.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Gary Todd (no changes).

A dissent below was a far stronger indicator of the likelihood of reversal at the Supreme Court in criminal cases between 1990 and 1999 than it was on the civil side.  For the entire period, 63.51% of cases with a dissent below ended in reversal at the Supreme Court.  Only 44.77% of cases decided unanimously below were reversed.  Dissent-below cases led no-dissent cases in seven of ten years: 1990 (66.67% dissent below reversed, 50% no dissent below reversed); 1991 (53.33% to 27.91%), 1992 (81.82% to 53.09%), 1995 (66.67% to 39.47%), 1997 (66.67% to 42.11%), 1998 (80% to 46.27%) and 1999 (71.43% to 45.65%).

Join us back here later this week as we review the data for the years 2000 through 2009.

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

For the next three weeks, we’ll be reviewing data closely related to our just-concluded look at dissents below and at the Supreme Court.  This time, we’re asking a related question – is the Supreme Court more likely to reverse when there’s a dissent below?  Or to put it another way – is there reason to believe that the Supreme Court hears cases with a dissent below because it agrees with the dissenter?  We begin with civil cases for the years 1990 through 1999, comparing two data points: yearly percentage of cases with a dissent below which resulted in a reversal, and yearly percentage of cases decided unanimously below which resulted in a reversal.

For these years, although the effect isn’t dramatic, it’s definitely there – reversal is more likely if there’s a dissent below.  In seven of the ten years from 1990 to 1999, the percentage of cases with a dissent below which resulted in reversal outpaced the no-dissent reversals.  Overall for the period, cases with a dissent at the Appellate Court had a reversal at the Supreme Court in 64.83% of cases, while cases with no dissent below had a reversal in 56.24%.  The data was especially lopsided in 1992 (66.67% dissent below, reversal above, 51.39% no dissent below, reversal above); 1993 (87.5% to 41.94%), 1995 (80% to 65.85%); 1996 (83.33% to 46.51%); 1997 (66.67% to 47.37%), and 1999 (66.67% to 50%).

Join us back here next time as we review the data for criminal cases in the same period.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Gary Todd (no changes).