What Kind of Constitutional Law Case is the Court Most Likely to Hear in the Criminal Docket?

This week, we’re continuing our review of the Court’s constitutional law docket by asking (1) how much of the Court’s docket consists of cases won below by one side or the other; (2) whether the Court has a significantly higher (or lower) reversal rate depending on who won below; and (3) whether the Court tends to reverse more or less often in constitutional law cases than it does in other cases.  Today, we’re looking at the Court’s criminal law docket.  The coding terms conservative and liberal track the two sides much more easily in criminal law than they do in civil law – a defendant’s win is coded as a liberal decision, and a prosecution win is coded as a conservative one.

Not surprisingly, the Court is far more likely to review an Appellate Court win by a criminal defendant than it is a win by the prosecution – 65.3% of the Court’s criminal constitutional law cases since 1990 were won by the defendant below.  Also not surprisingly, the moderate Illinois Supreme Court is far more likely to reverse a criminal defendant’s win from the Appellate Court than it is a win for the prosecution – it’s reversed 64.02% of the defense wins it’s heard since 1990, but only 33.07% of the prosecution wins.

In Table 707, we report the eighty-five cases in which the Court has affirmed a prosecution win in a constitutional law case.  The Court did so once each in 1990 and 1991, twice in 1992, four times in 1993, three in 1994 and six in 1995.  The Court affirmed two prosecution wins a year in 1997 and 1998, four in 1999, three in 2000, eight in 2001 and two per year from 2002 to 2004.  The Court affirmed six prosecution wins in 2005, three in 2006, one in 2007, seven in 2008, one in 2009, six in 2010, two per year in 2011 and 2012.  Finally, the Court affirmed four prosecution wins in 2013, five in 2014, one each in 2015 and 2016 and four in 2017.

In Table 708, we review the yearly data for the much rarer event – reversal of a prosecution win in a criminal constitutional law case.  The Court reversed twice in 1990, once in 1991, four times in 1992, once in 1993, twice in 1994, once in 1996, three times in 1997, five times in 1998, once in 1999 and four times in 2000.  The Court reversed twice in 2001, once in 2002, twice each in 2003 and 2004, once in 2007, twice in 2008 and once in 2009.  The Court reversed two prosecution wins a year in 2012, 2013 and 2015, and one in 2016.

In Table 709, we review the yearly data for defense wins in criminal constitutional law cases which were affirmed at the Court.  Over the entire twenty-eight years, affirmance of defense wins was almost exactly as common as affirmance of prosecution wins – 86 to 85 (this doesn’t mean the two sides were equally likely to get reversed – there are nearly four times as many defense reversals as prosecution reversals).  In 1990, the Court affirmed three defense wins, it affirmed twice in 1991, three times in 1992, once in 1993, four times in 1994, once in 1995, four times in 1996, three times in 1997, five times in 1998, seven times in 1999 and twice in 2000.  The Court affirmed one decision in 2001, twelve in 2002, sixteen in 2003, four in 2004, two in 2005, one in 2006, three in 2008 and two in 2009.  Since 2009, affirmances of defense wins have been comparatively uncommon – there were two in 2011, one in 2012, three in 2014, one each in 2015 and 2016 and two in 2017.

Next, we review the 153 cases reversing a defense win.  The Court reversed eight times in 1990, four in 1991, twelve times in 1992 and 1994, four times in 1993, seven in 1995, five in 1996, two in 1997, seven in 1998, three in 1999 and four in 2000.  The Court reversed three times each in 2001 and 2002, six times in 2003, eight times in 2004, ten times in 2005, nine in 2006, five in 2007, six in 2008, three in 2009 and five in 2010.  The Court reversed twice per year in 2011 and 2012, three times in 2013, once in 2014, eight times in 2015, seven in 2016 and four in 2017.

Overall, the Court’s reversal rate in criminal constitutional law cases is roughly comparable to what it is in the docket as a whole.  Since 1990, the Court has reversed in 45.5% of its criminal con law cases, and has reversed in part in just short of another ten percent, for an overall reversal rate of 55.04%.  Looking at the yearly data, the Court reversed 74.4% of the cases between 1990 and 1992.  From 1994, when the Court shifted its ideological balance from five Democrats in the seven seats to only four, through 1997, the Court’s reversal rate was in line with its totals for the period, as the Court reversed in 58.93% of criminal constitutional law cases.

But then, things shifted for several years.  Between 1998 and 2005, the Court was noticeably less likely to reverse in a criminal constitutional law case than the rest of the criminal docket: it reversed in only 45% of 140 cases.   The Court reversed in whole or in part in ten of thirteen cases in 2006, and six of seven in 2007.  But from 2008 through 2011, the Court reversed in only 45.24% of cases.  The Court reversed in four of seven cases in 2012 and six of nine in 2013, but in only one of nine in 2014.  The Court reversed in whole or in part in all eleven constitutional law cases it decided in 2015, and reversed outright in eight of ten in 2016, but reversed in only four of ten in 2017.

Join us back here next Tuesday as we continue our exploration of the constitutional law caseload.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Discosour (no changes).

What Kind of Constitutional Law Case is the Court Most Likely to Hear in the Civil Docket?

Last week, we tracked the number of constitutional law cases on the civil side of the Court’s docket, year by year since 1990.  This week, we’re looking deeper at the data.  What kind of constitutional law cases has the Court tended to take, and has the Court tended to reverse more regularly, depending on who won the case below?

We code all the Court’s cases as conservative or liberal decisions, both at the Appellate Court and the Supreme Court.  Unlike criminal law, this doesn’t lend itself directly to dividing the cases as decisions for the plaintiffs or defendants.  For example, a decision for a plaintiff challenging a government regulation or program as a taking would be coded as a conservative result, while a decision for a plaintiff challenging the constitutionality of a consent statute for blood tests for drivers would be coded as a liberal result.

In Table 702, we report the Court’s yearly number of civil constitutional law cases in which the Court affirmed a conservative result.  For the entire period, the Court reviewed seventy-five conservative Appellate Court decisions in civil law and eighty-one liberal decisions.  The Court reversed forty-eight percent of the conservative civil con law decisions it reviewed for the entire period, but 61.73% of liberal civil con law decisions.  The Court affirmed one conservative civil law decision in 1990, five in 1992, two in 1994, one each in 1995 and 1997, three each in 1996 and 1998, two each in 2001 and 2003, one each in 2002 and 2004, three in 2005, two in 2006, three in 2008 and 2010, one per year in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and three cases in 2014.

In Table 703, we report the yearly reversals of conservative constitutional law decisions on the civil side.  The Court reversed three times in 1990, once per year from 1991 to 1993, three times in 1004, twice in 1995, three times in 1996, once in 1997 and three times each in 1998 and 1999.  The Court reversed once each in 2000 and 2001, twice in 2002, once in 2004 and 2007, twice per year in 2008 and 2009, once in 2014, twice in 2015 and once each in 2016 and 2017.

In Table 704 and 705, we review the data on the Court’s review of liberal Appellate Court decisions.  The Court affirmed two liberal decisions per year in 1990, 1992 and 1994, one in 1993 and 1995, three in 1996, six in 1997, two per year in 2003 and 2004, one per year in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2015, and four in 2016.

In Table 705, we review the yearly data on reversals of liberal Appellate Court decisions in civil constitutional law cases.  The Court reversed four times in 1990, once in 1991, three in 1992, once in 1993, 1994 and 1995, five times in 1996, once in 1997, five times in 1998, three times in 1999 and 2001, once in 2002 and 2003, three times in 2004 and 2005, twice in 2006, three times in 2008, once per year from 2010 through 2013, twice in 2015, once in 2016 and twice in 2017.

In Table 706, we reorganize the data to look at the overall reversal rate in civil constitutional law cases (note that the number of cases here doesn’t always match the numbers above because of cases which reached the Supreme Court without an Appellate Court decision, such as petitions and certified questions).  The Court has decided 162 civil cases since 1990 primarily involving constitutional law questions.  It has reversed entirely in 78 of those cases and reversed in part in another 20, for a reversal rate of 60.49% – several points higher than the Court’s typical reversal rate in the docket as a whole.  As the data shows, in many years, the Court has generally taken civil constitutional law decisions in order to reverse them.  For example, in 1990 and 1991, the Court reversed in 12 of 15 cases – over 80%.  The reversal rate dropped from 1992 through 1997, but ticked up again for several years after.  The Court reversed ten of fourteen decisions in 1998, all seven cases it heard in 1999 and 2000 and eight of ten cases in heard in 2001 and 2002.

The Court reversed constitutional law decisions at a somewhat slower clip than the rest of the civil docket from 2003 to 2012, reversing only 51.11% of the time.  Since that time, the Court has reversed in whole or in part in twelve of twenty-one civil constitutional law cases, a reversal rate of 57.14%.

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s constitutional law cases on the criminal side of the docket.

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

Constitutional Law at the Court, Part 2 – How Many Criminal Con Law Cases Does the Court Decide a Year?

Yesterday, we began our detailed look at the most common area of law on the Court’s civil and criminal dockets (and the area of law most frequently identified with courts of law resort) – constitutional law.  Today, we’re beginning our review of the Court’s constitutional law cases on the criminal docket side.

In 1990, the Court decided fourteen constitutional law cases on the criminal law side.  In 1991, the Court decided only eight con law cases, but in 1992 and 1994, the Court decided twenty-one cases per year.  In 1993, the Court decided ten constitutional law cases.  In 1995, the Court decided thirteen constitutional law cases.  In 1996, the Court decided nine cases.

Constitutional law cases were up somewhat on the criminal law side of the docket in the next seven years.  The Court decided ten cases in 1997, nineteen in 1998, fifteen cases in 1999, thirteen in 2000, fourteen in 2001 and eighteen cases in 2002.  In 2003, the Court’s caseload in criminal law rose to twenty-six cases.

The Court’s constitutional law caseload edged downwards a bit between 2004 and 2010.  The Court decided sixteen cases in 2004, nineteen in 2005, thirteen in 2006, seven cases in 2007, eighteen in 2008, seven in 2009 and eleven in 2010.

Constitutional law cases have remained a bit lower over the past seven years.  The Court decided six con law cases in the criminal docket in 2011, seven in 2012, nine each in 2013 and 2014, eleven cases in 2015 and ten per year in 2016 and 2017.

Join us back here next Tuesday as we continue our analysis of the Court’s experience with constitutional law.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Marco Verch (no changes).

Constitutional Law at the Court, Part 1 – How Many Civil Con Law Cases Does the Court Decide a Year?

This week, we’re beginning an intensive look at the Court’s cases, divided by subject matter.  Many people – especially non-lawyers – think of courts of last resort primarily in terms of constitutional law decisions.  So let’s start there – the Illinois Supreme Court’s past twenty-seven years with constitutional law in both civil and criminal law.

In 1990, the Court decided thirteen cases whose primary issue was constitutional law.  The Court decided only two con law cases in 1991, but eleven in 1992.  In the four years that followed, the Court’s con law case load moved up and down: three cases in 1993, eight in 1994, five in 1995 and fourteen cases in 1996.

The Court’s civil con law caseload remained at the same level for the seven years that followed.  In 1997, the Court decided nine civil con law cases.  The Court decided thirteen cases, in 1998 and six in 1999, but only one in 2000.  The Court decided six constitutional law cases on the civil side in 2001, four in 2002 and five in 2003.

The Court decided seven civil cases primarily involving constitutional law in both 2004 and 2005.  In 2006, the Court decided five con law cases.  In 2007, the Court decided only two civil con law cases.  The Court decided eight con law cases in 2008, two in 2009 and five in 2010.

Constitutional law cases have been slightly lower on the civil side in the past seven years.  The Court decided two civil constitutional law cases per year in 2011 and 2012.  The Court decided three cases in 2013, four in 2014, five in 2015, six in 2016 and three in 2017.

Join us tomorrow as we begin our review of the Court’s constitutional law decisions over the past quarter-century on the criminal law side of the docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Tony Webster (no changes).

I’ve Joined Horvitz & Levy – and We’re Opening a San Francisco Office!

Exciting news from a press release this morning:

Horvitz & Levy LLP, the country’s largest boutique law firm dedicated to civil appeals and trial strategy consulting, is opening a San Francisco office at 505 Sansome Street in the city’s iconic Transamerica Pyramid Center, strengthening the firm’s California roots. The new office will be led by Kirk C. Jenkins, the former Chair of Sedgwick LLP’s Appellate Task Force.

Horvitz & Levy has 40 attorneys focused on civil appeals in state and federal courts nationwide. “Given the nature of our practice and the business growth in the Bay Area, it makes sense to increase our presence in Northern California for our clients’ benefit and for all of our attorneys who frequent the area to serve those clients,” said Barry Levy, a member of the firm’s management committee. “We’re looking forward to having Kirk lead our San Francisco office.”

Jenkins, a well-known appellate authority, has served as appellate counsel in more than 200 appeals and writs in state and federal courts across the country. He is a Vice President of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers, an elected fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, and an elected member of the American Law Institute, where he has been active in helping develop the new generation of Restatements of the Law.

“Horvitz & Levy’s focus on appeals and trial strategy consulting is a perfect platform for my practice which, in the last few years, has included litigation support through data analytics and artificial intelligence,” said Jenkins. “More and more legal departments are taking a closer look at analytics to determine the best approach to each case,” added Jenkins. “Nowhere is this more evident than in San Francisco and Silicon Valley where the legal industry is keen to embrace the latest technologies.”

Jenkins will continue to write his data analytics blog The California Supreme Court Review, which studies decision making in the California Supreme Court from a data analytics point of view.

“Horvitz & Levy is known throughout the legal community as the nation’s premier appellate boutique, and I’m looking forward to working with my new colleagues to expand our existing practice in Northern California.”

Image courtesy of Flickr by Justin Pickard

Does the Time to Argument and Decision Correlate to How a Criminal Case is Decided?

Last time, we looked at whether the Court’s lag time – from the allowance of a petition for leave to appeal to oral argument, and from oral argument to decision – gives litigants a hint of what the Court’s decision is likely to be.  We showed that although there’s no consistent relationship between lag time and result as a whole, affirmances tend to take longer, all else being equal, from the grant of review to oral argument, and reversals take longer from the oral argument to decision.  So what patterns do we see in the criminal docket?

In nine of the past ten years, reversals in criminal cases have taken longer from grant to argument than affirmances have.  In 2008, reversals took an average of 245.77 days from the grant of review to oral argument, and affirmances took 226.71 days.  2009 was the lone outlier – that year, affirmances averaged 288.2 days to 284 days for reversals.  But in 2010, reversals averaged 273.95 days, affirmances averaged 266.96.  In 2011, reversals averaged 270.68 days, affirmances 266.53 days.  In 2012, reversals averaged 308 days from grant to argument, while affirmances averaged 259.  In 2013, reversals averaged 294.65 days, and affirmances averaged 263.69 days.  In 2014, reversals averaged 285.5 days and affirmances averaged 258.14 days.  In 2015, reversals averaged 289.14 days, and affirmances averaged 241.6 days.  In 2016, reversals averaged 290.71 days from grant to argument, while affirmances came on for argument in an average of 254.73 days.  Last year, reversals averaged 287.69 days, and affirmances averaged 264.36 days.

As we noted above, the relationship between lag time and result flips when you compare grant to argument and argument to decision – affirmances take longer to argue, reversals take longer to decide.  The criminal docket is somewhat different; although the relationship is not as strong, reversals tend to take somewhat longer regardless of whether we look at grant to argument or argument to decision.

In 2005, affirmances averaged 228.6 days from argument to decision, while reversals averaged 208.67 days.  In 2006, reversals averaged 113.9 days, while affirmances averaged 112.36 days.  In 2007, affirmances averaged 143.75 days to 131.21 days for reversals.  In 2008, reversals averaged 152.74 days, while affirmances averaged 103.5 days.  In 2009, reversals averaged 178.67 days, while affirmances averaged 150.83 days.  In 2010, the two numbers were almost identical – affirmances averaged 139.97 days, and reversals averaged 139.42 days.

In 2011, affirmances averaged 165.52 days, while reversals averaged 131.13 days.  In 2012, affirmances averaged 134.07 days, and reversals averaged 121.69 days.  In 2013, reversals averaged 160.61 days from argument to decision; affirmances averaged 101.14 days.  In 2014, reversals averaged 103.85 days, while affirmances averaged 98.29 days.  In 2015, reversals averaged 143.14 days from argument to decision, while affirmances were decided in an average of 95 days.  In 2016, reversals averaged 171.82 days in criminal cases.  Affirmances averaged 124.73 days.  Last year, reversals averaged 154 days from argument to decision, while affirmances took on average 126.69 days.

Given the more consistent relationship between lag time and result on the criminal side, we would expect reversals to average more days pending, from grant of review to decision, in most years compared to affirmances.  And that’s what we see – in nine of the ten years from 2008 to 2017, reversals were pending longer than affirmances in criminal cases.  Indeed, in 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, reversals averaged a month or more longer from grant to decision than affirmances did.

Join us back here next week as we turn our attention to another issue in our ongoing study of the Court’s decision making.

Image courtesy of Flickr by David B. Gleason (no changes).

Does the Time to Argument and Decision Correlate to How a Civil Case is Decided?

Last week, we reviewed the basic data on lag times at the Court – how long has it typically taken, year after year, for civil and criminal cases to be argued and decided.  This week, we’re looking at a different aspect of lag time – does it help predict the likely result?  Is a case which takes longer than expected to be argued or decided more likely to be an affirmance or reversal?

In Table 688, we compare the yearly lag time from the allowance of the PLA to oral argument for affirmances and reversals in civil cases.  We see a fairly clear result – in seven of the last eight years, it’s taken longer from grant to argument in cases where the Court ultimately affirmed than in reversals.  The pattern is different at the outset of our period.  In 2007, civil affirmances averaged 161.75 days from grant to argument, while reversals got argued in 163.8 days.  In 2008, affirmances averaged 168.29 days, while reversals averaged 187.41 days.  In 2009, affirmances averaged 169.44 days, reversals 192.62 days.

But since 2010, the relationship has been consistent – affirmances take longer to reach argument.  In 2010, affirmances in civil cases averaged 213.87 days, reversals were argued in 176.27.  In 2011, affirmances averaged 220.81 days, reversals 162 days.  In 2012, affirmances averaged 254.75 days, while reversals were argued in nearly two months less time – 190 days.  2013 was the only break in the pattern – affirmances 178.54 days, reversals 191.58 days.  But in 2014 and since, affirmances once again took longer.  In 2014, affirmances averaged 226.71 days to argument, reversals averaged 188.15.  IN 2015, affirmances averaged 220.24 days, reversals averaged 197.86 days.  In 2016, affirmances averaged 181.33 days, reversals averaged 173.5 days.  Last year, affirmances averaged 212.3 days, while reversals averaged 194.73 days.

So what about the second half of the process, from argument to decision?  It turns out the relationship flips: affirmances consistently take longer to reach argument, but in ten of the past thirteen years, reversals take longer to decide.

In 2005, reversals in civil cases averaged 172.08 days, while affirmances averaged 163.42 days.  In 2006, reversals averaged 154.59 days, affirmances averaged 117.5 days.  In 2007, reversals averaged 134.41 days, while affirmances averaged 121.76 days.  In 2008, affirmances averaged 160.67 days, reversals averaged 146 days.  In 2009, reversals averaged 146.23 days from argument to decision, while affirmances averaged 120.5 days. In 2010, there was more than two months difference – reversals averaged 181.78 days, and affirmances were decided in 111.87 days.

In 2011, affirmances took slightly longer – 149.59 days to 137.42 days for reversals.  In 2012, reversals averaged 155.68 days to 146.75 days for affirmances.  In 2013, affirmances averaged 164.79 days, while reversals averaged 118.55 days.  In 2014, reversals averaged 134.5 days, while affirmances took 97.57 days.  In 2015, reversals averaged 136.05 days from argument to decision, while affirmances averaged 98.71 days.  In 2016, reversals averaged 197.92 days, affirmances 122.23 days.  Last year, affirmances took longer – 125.73 days to 104.33 for reversals.

So affirmances take longer to reach argument, but reversals take longer to decide.  How does it net out – is there a consistent relationship across the entire lag time of a case from grant to argument?

The answer is no – across the entire decisional process, there’s no consistent correlation between lag time and result.  Reversals were pending longer from 2007 to 2010 and in 2015 and 2016, and in the remaining years, affirmances were pending longer.

Join us back here next time as we take a look at the data on the criminal side of the docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Courtney Carmody (no changes).

How Long Do Criminal Cases Typically Take to Argument and Decision?

Last time, we reviewed the lag time data for the Court’s civil cases between 2005 and 2017 – specifically, (1) grant of petition for leave to appeal to oral argument; and (2) oral argument to decision.  This time, we’re looking at the Court’s experience with its criminal docket.

Once again, we have only the argument-to-decision number for the years 2006 and 2007, since data on conference results (and therefore grant dates) is difficult to locate.  In 2006, the Court averaged 112.03 days in criminal cases from argument to decision.  In 2007, the Court averaged 139.85 days.

In 2008, the Court averaged 238.23 days in criminal cases from the grant of the petition for leave to appeal to oral argument, and a further 131.92 days to decision.  In 2009, both sides of the ledger were up, as the Court averaged 286 from grant to argument, and 164.27 days from argument to decision.  In 2010, the Court averaged 270 days in criminal cases from grant to argument, but only 136.39 days to decision.  In 2011, both numbers were essentially flat – 269 days from grant to argument, 144.7 days from argument to decision.  In 2012, the lag from grant of petition for leave to appeal to argument increased a bit to 284 days, but the lag from argument to decision fell to 124.21 days.  In 2013, grant to argument took 282.45 days, while the average lag from argument to decision edged up to 138.03 days.

In 2014, the average time from grant to argument fell slightly to 268.09 days, but argument to decision fell to its lowest level during the period – only 100.41 days.  In 2015, the Court averaged 274.28 days from grant to argument, and 128.09 from argument to decision.  In 2016, grant to argument was again flat, averaging 276.57 days in criminal cases.  But the lag from argument to decision was up to 153.79 days.  Last year, the Court averaged 279.59 days from grant of petition for leave to appeal in criminal cases to argument, and a further 140.34 days from argument to decision.

Join us back here next week as we continue our review of the data on lag times at the Court.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Michel Curi (no changes).

How Long Do Civil Cases Typically Take to Argument and Decision?

Last time, we were reviewing the Court’s treatment of cases with a dissent at the Appellate Court.  This week, we’re reviewing the data on lag times at the Court.

In 2014, a joint project of the Court Management Committee of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, in conjunction with the Conference of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal, the National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks and the American Bar Association, developed a schedule of model lag time goals for each stage in an appeal.  After reviewing survey data from courts around the country, comparing their performance to the time standards set by the ABA, among others, the project suggested a new lag time goal: the project concluded that state courts of last resort should attempt to process seventy-five percent of their cases in one-hundred eighty days from grant of review to decision, and ninety-five percent in two hundred forty days from grant to decision.  So how is the Illinois Supreme Court doing?

Computing lag time data before 2007 is challenging because conference results are not posted on the Court’s website (meaning that it’s impossible to determine the date on which leave to appeal was granted).  In 2005, the Court averaged 166.2 days from argument to decision.  In 2006, the Court averaged 133.63 days from argument to decision.

Beginning in 2007, we can compare both the days from the grant of review to argument, and the days from argument to decision.  For the past eleven years, the Court has fallen short of the joint project’s lag time goals.  In 2007, civil cases averaged 162.89 days from grant to argument and a further 128.9 days from argument to decision.  In 2008, the Court averaged 178.77 days from grant to argument and 154.38 days from argument to decision.  In 2009, civil cases averaged 187 days from grant of leave to appeal to argument, and a further 139.8 days from argument to decision.  In 2010, civil cases averaged 195 days from grant to argument and 150 days from argument to decision.  In 2011, the numbers were quite similar: 190 days from grant to argument, 143.14 days from argument to decision.  In 2012, civil cases averaged 201.29 days from the grant of leave to appeal to argument and a further 152.18 days from argument to decision.  In 2013, the Court averaged 186.28 days from grant to argument, and 137.59 days from argument to decision.  In 2014, civil cases averaged 198.15 days from grant to argument, and 124.93 days from argument to decision.

In 2015, civil cases averaged 199.02 days from grant of leave to appeal to argument, and a further 117.81 days from argument to decision.  In 2016, civil cases averaged 176.86 days from grant to argument, and 155.19 days from argument to decision.  Last year, the Court’s civil cases averaged 201.76 days from grant of review to argument, and a further 113.38 days from argument to decision.

Join us back here later today as we review the data for the Court’s criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Pen Waggener (no changes).

Are Criminal Cases With a Dissent More Often Reversed?

Yesterday, we began our further examination of the Court’s experience with cases with a dissent at the Appellate Court.  We asked whether civil cases with a dissent were systematically more or less likely to be reversed than cases which were decided unanimously.  Today, we’re asking the same question on the criminal side of the docket.

As shown in Table 685, the answer on the criminal side is quite clear: cases with a dissent below are more likely to be reversed at the Supreme Court – in many years, twenty to forty percentage points more likely.

In 1990, divided cases were reversed 60% of the time.  Unanimous decisions were reversed in 42.59% of cases.  In 1991 and 1992, decisions with a dissent were once again much more likely to be reversed – 53.33 and 81.81% for divided decisions to 23.26 and 45.68% for unanimous ones.  1993 was one of the few years that unanimous decisions were more likely to be reversed – unanimous decisions were reversed in 28.57% of cases while no cases with a dissent were reversed.

In 1994 and 1995, again cases with a dissent led in reversals – 50 and 66.67% for divided cases to 45.45 and 38.16% for unanimous ones.  In 1996, 33.96% of unanimous decisions were reversed, but no divided decisions were.  In 1997, two-thirds of divided criminal cases were reversed, while only 36.84% of unanimous ones were.  In 1998, 80% of divided decisions were reversed.  Only 38.81% of unanimous decisions were.  In 1999, 71.43% of decisions with dissents were reversed, while 39.13% of unanimous decisions were.  The pattern took a one-year break in 2000, as one-third of cases with dissents were reversed to 39.24% for unanimous decisions, before reasserting itself from 2001 to 2005.  In 2001, 80% of divided decisions were reversed to 35.85% of unanimous decisions.  In 2002, 71.43% of divided decisions were reversed, while only 39.68% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2003, 77.78% of decisions with dissents were reversed, but only 32.14% of unanimous ones were.  In 2004, fully 88.89% of decisions with a dissent were reversed.  Only 47.73% of unanimous decisions were.

In 2005, 43.75% of criminal cases with a dissent were reversed, while 46.51% of unanimous decisions were.  Following that, divided decisions were more likely to be reversed for each of the next eight years.  In 2006, 63.64% of divided decisions and 53.85% of unanimous decisions were reversed.  In 2007, 87.5% of divided decisions and 65% of unanimous decisions were reversed.  In 2008, 69.23% of divided decisions were reversed, but 48.65% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2009, two-thirds of decisions with a dissent below were reversed, while 47.83% of unanimous decisions were.

The sides were close in 2010 – 44.44% of divided decisions and 40.54% of unanimous decisions were reversed – but the pattern quickly reasserted itself.  In 2011, two-thirds of divided decisions were reversed, while 47.22% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2012, 55.56% of divided decisions were reversed, and 45.83% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2013, every criminal case with a dissent below was reversed, while 51.52% of unanimous decisions were.

In 2014, 38.46% of unanimous decisions were reversed, while 37.5% of divided decisions were.  Between 2015 and 2017, divided decisions have been more likely to be reversed each year.  In 2015, 72.73% of divided decisions and 68.18% of unanimous decisions were reversed.  In 2016, 85.71% of decisions with dissents were reversed, and 60.71% of unanimous decisions were.  Last year, the Court reversed 57.14% of decisions with a dissent below and 40.74% of unanimous decisions.

Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn our attention to a new topic.

Image courtesy of Flickr by StantonTCady (no changes).

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