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).

Are Civil Cases With a Dissent More Frequently Reversed?

Last week, we reviewed the data on whether cases which were published below are more frequently reversed.  This week, we’re reviewing a related issue: are cases with a dissent below more frequently reversed by the Supreme Court?  If so, that might suggest that dissents at the Appellate Court aren’t just helpful in getting the Court’s attention for a PLA – a persuasive dissent might help the side who lost below turn defeat into victory at the Supreme Court.

In 1990 and 1991, cases without dissents were reversed somewhat more frequently than cases with dissents – in 1990, cases with dissents were reversed 47.62% of the time, and cases with no dissents were reversed in 58.62% of the cases.  In 1991, 60% of cases with dissents were reversed, and 68.42% of cases without dissents were reversed.

In 1992, two-thirds of cases with dissents were reversed, and 52.11% of cases with no dissents were reversed.  In 1993, 87.5% of cases with no dissents were reversed.  For cases with no dissents, the reversal rate was 40%.  In 1994, 61.9% of cases with a dissent were reversed, while half of cases with no dissents were reversed.  In 1995, 80% of cases with dissents were reversed.  63.41% of cases with no dissents were reversed.  In 1996, 83.33% of cases with dissents were reversed, while 60.47% of cases with no dissents were reversed.  In 1997, two-thirds of the cases with a dissent were reversed.  Only 47.37% of cases with no dissents were reversed.  In 1998, only 36.36% of cases with dissents were reversed, but 61.67% of cases with no dissent were.  In 1999, 57.14% of cases with no dissents were reversed.  Half of the cases with no dissents were reversed.

In 2000, 37.5% of cases with a dissent were reversed, while 60% of unanimous decisions were reversed.  In 2001, half of cases with a dissent were reversed, while 46.81% of non-unanimous decisions were reversed.  In 2002, 64.29% of cases with a dissent were reversed, while 58.33% of unanimous decisions were reversed.  In 2003, 64.71% of cases with a dissent were reversed.  Only 48.28% of cases without a dissent were reversed.

In 2004, half of the cases without a dissent were reversed, but 52.27% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2005, 54.55% of cases with a dissent were reversed, while 52.78% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2006, two-thirds of split decisions were reversed, while only 32.43% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2007, once again two-thirds of decisions with a dissent below were reversed, while only 38.46% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2008, 53.85% of decisions with a dissent were reversed, while 51.72% of unanimous decisions were reversed.

In 2009, 80% of decisions with a dissent were reversed, while 67.74% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2010, two-thirds of decisions with a dissent were reversed, but 47.62%of unanimous decisions were.  In 2011, 60% of unanimous decisions were reversed, and 42.86% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2012, all of the decisions which had a dissent below were reversed, and 64.29% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2013, 70% of decisions with a dissent were reversed, while 54.17% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2014, three-quarters of decisions with a dissent were reversed, and 65.22% of unanimous decisions were reversed.  In 2015, only 46.67% of divided civil decisions were reversed, while 55.17% of unanimous decisions were overturned.  In 2016, 20% of divided decisions were reversed, while 43.48% of unanimous decisions were reversed.  Last year, 80% of decisions with a dissent below were reversed.  Only 37.5% of unanimous civil decisions were reversed.

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

Image courtesy of Flickr by Bradhoc (no changes).

Are Published Criminal Cases More Often Reversed?

Yesterday, we tested whether publication at the Appellate Court has any impact on a civil case’s reversal rate at the Supreme Court.  The answer is no – published Appellate Court decisions on the civil side are not consistently reversed at a higher or lower rate than unpublished decisions.  Today, we test the same question on the criminal side.

On the criminal side, we see an interesting result.  Between 1990 and 2003, published criminal decisions were reversed at a consistently higher rate than unpublished ones – published cases’ reversal rates were higher in thirteen of fourteen years.  From 2004 to 2017, the relationship has nearly inverted.  Of the fourteen years, published cases have had the higher reversal rate three times, the two sides have been tied in four years, and unpublished cases have had the higher reversal rate seven times.

In 1990, published criminal cases had a 51.61% reversal rate.  Unpublished decisions were reversed at a 44.74% rate.  In 1991, half the published cases were reversed, but only 13.33% of the unpublished decisions were.  In 1992, 70.73% of the published decisions were reversed.  Only 35.29% of the unpublished decisions were.

The reversal rate for unpublished criminal decisions stayed consistently low for another five years: 20% in 1993, 12.82% in 1994, 32.14% in 1995, 26.83% in 1996 and 29.27% in 1997.  In each of these years except 1993, the reversal rate for published decisions was between fifty and sixty percent.  The reversal rate for unpublished criminal decisions stayed below 50% from 1998 through 2003 (in fact, between 2000 and 2003, it was below 40%).

In 2004, one seat on the Court switched from Democratic to Republican.  Beginning with that year, unpublished criminal decisions were reversed at a much higher rate, and the numbers for published and unpublished decisions became quite similar.  In 2006, 44.44% of both published and unpublished decisions were reversed.  In 2007, 61.54% of published cases and 69.23% of unpublished ones were reversed.  In 2008, 47.83% of both published and unpublished decisions were reversed.  In 2010, half of both published and unpublished decisions were reversed, and in 2011, both sides finished at 48% reversals.

Since 2012, there’s been no consistent relationship between the reversal rates on the published and unpublished sides.  In 2012, 57.89% of published cases were reversed, and 35.71% of unpublished cases were.  In 2013, 52.17% of published cases were reversed, but two-thirds of unpublished cases were.  In 2014, 45.45% of published cases were reversed, and 27.27% of unpublished cases were.  In 2015, 63.16% of published cases were reversed, but 78.57% of unpublished cases were.  The numbers were similar in 2016 – 61.9% for published cases, 76.92% for unpublished cases.  Last year, 45.45% of published cases were reversed, and 41.67% of unpublished cases were.

Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn our attention to another question.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Katherine Johnson (no changes).

Are Published Civil Cases More Often Reversed?

Last week, we looked at the conventional wisdom which holds that the Supreme Court only reviews published decisions from the Appellate Court.  We showed that in fact, Rule 23 orders (the Illinois term for unpublished decisions) are not unheard of on the Court’s civil docket – in a typical year, twenty to forty percent of the civil cases were unpublished below – and are downright commonplace in the criminal docket.

This week, we’re digging deeper on the issue of publication at the Appellate Court.  In order to understand better what kinds of cases make it to the Supreme Court despite being unpublished below, let’s compare the reversal rate for published Appellate Court decisions to the reversal rate on unpublished decisions.  It’s easy to posit conflicting theories as to how this analysis might come out.  Perhaps published decisions are given a harder look by the Court, leading to a higher reversal rate?  Or perhaps, given that they’re not precedential, what causes the Court to allow an appeal from an unpublished decision is the view that the case was clearly wrongly decided.  If that turns out to be true, one might expect the reversal rate for unpublished decisions to be higher than published ones.

In fact, there isn’t strong evidence for either of these theories, as we see in Table 682.  In thirteen of the past twenty-eight years, the reversal rate for published decisions has been higher; in fifteen years, the reversal rate has been higher for unpublished decisions.  In 1990, the numbers were almost identical – 60.71% of the published decisions were reversed, and 57.58% of the unpubs were.  The next year, the reversal rate for published decisions was flat at 62.79%, while 80% of the unpublished decisions were reversed.  By 1993, the two halves of the docket had diverged – 61.29% reversal of published decisions, 14.29% of unpublished ones, but for the next four years, the two sides were quite close.  In 1994, 55.56% of published decisions and 41.67% of unpublished decisions were reversed.  In 1995, 64.44% of published decisions and 81.82% of unpublished ones were reversed.  In 1996, 64.71% were reversed on the published side, 66.67% were reversed on the unpublished side.  The following year, 47.37% of published cases and 52% of unpublished ones were reversed.

In 2000, 57.14% of published cases and half the unpublished cases were reversed.  The following year, reversals among published decisions were down a bit to 44.83%, while they were static on the unpublished side.  In 2003 and 2004, the two sides were nearly equal – 56.76% and 50% for published decisions, 55.56% and 57.14% for unpublished ones.  For four of the five years between 2009 and 2013, reversals were at least a bit more common among published decisions than they were among unpublished ones (indeed, none of the Rule 23 orders reviewed in 2008 or 2013 were reversed).  In 2014, the reversal rate was exactly two-thirds in both published and unpublished decisions.  For 2015, 48.57% of published decisions and two-thirds of unpublished decisions were reversed.  In 2016, 45% of published decisions and 25% of unpublished ones were reversed.  Last year, half of the published decisions the Court reviewed on the civil side were reversed, but all of the unpublished decisions were.

Join us back here tomorrow as we look at the Court’s criminal docket.

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

 

How Many of the Court’s Criminal Cases are Published at the Appellate Court?

Yesterday, we looked at how large a share of the Court’s civil docket since 1990 has been accounted for by cases which were published at the Appellate Court.  Although there have been spikes in both directions from time to time, we showed that typically, 60-80% of the court’s civil cases were published below.  Today, we’re looking at the criminal side of the docket.

In Table 680, we report the raw numbers – criminal law decisions which were published below.  As you can see, the criminal docket is somewhat less dependent on published cases than the civil docket is.  In 1990, 31 of the criminal cases were published below.  In 1991, 28 were, and in 1992, 41 were.  But for the nine years that followed – from 1993 to 2001 – there were typically twenty or so published decisions a year.  In 2002, the figure jumped to 31.  In 2004, 42 criminal decisions were published below.  In 2005 and 2006, the number was 38 and 32, respectively.  Since then, for the most part, the data has reverted to trend.  In 2007, 15 criminal decisions were published below.  From 2008 to 2010, the number was up – 27 in 2008, 29 in 2009 and 33 in 2010 – but ever since that time, it’s back to trend.  In 2011, 2013 and 2014, 23 cases were published per year.  In 2012 and 2015, 19 cases were published each year.  In 2016 and 2017, 22 of the court’s criminal cases were published below.

On the civil side, we saw what initially appeared to be a long-term decline in the number of published Appellate Court decisions being decided by the Supreme Court – a decline which pretty much disappeared when we looked at published decisions as a fraction of the docket.  As you can see in Table 681 below, on the criminal side, there seems to be a persistent increase in the share of the docket accounted for by published cases below.

From 1990 to 1994, published Appellate Court decisions were between forty and fifty percent of the criminal docket – 44.93% in 1990, 48.28% in 1991, 44.57% in 1992, 41.86% in 1993 and 40% in 1994.  In 1995, 29.11% of the docket was published below.  In 1996, only 24.07% was.  The number jumped to 34.92% in 1997, but fell back to 22.22% in 1998, and – after another one-year spike – 22.09% in 2000.  In 2001, 32.76% of the criminal docket was published below.  In 2002, 44.29% was, and in 2003, 35.38% was.

In 2004, we see the beginning of a persistent upswing in the fraction of the criminal docket accounted for by published cases.  That year, 67.74% of the docket was published below.  The figure was almost identical in 2005 and 2006 – 64.41% and 64%, respectively.  In 2007, 53.57% of the docket was published.  In 2008, 54% was.  In 2009, 55.77% of the docket was published below, and in 2010, 60% was.  After a two year dip to 47.92% in 2011 and 57.58% in 2012, the share of the criminal docket accounted for by published cases has stayed steady – 60.53% in 2013, 67.65% in 2014, 57.58% in 2015, 62.86% in 2016 and 64.71% in 2017.

Join us back here next week as we continue our analysis of the Court’s decision making.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Geoff Livingston (no changes).

How Many of the Court’s Civil Cases are Published at the Appellate Court?

Last time, we looked at the data on cases which had a dissenter at the Appellate Court, and whether they’re more likely to have at least one dissenter at the Supreme Court.  This week, we’re looking at a new question – how much of the court’s civil and criminal dockets consists of decisions which were published at the Appellate Court?

In Table 678, we report the number of civil cases the court decided which were published at the Appellate Court.  On the face of it, it seems that published decisions are declining on the Court’s civil docket.  In 1990, fifty-six of the court’s civil decisions were published below.  In 1991, that dropped to 43, but in 1992 and 1994, it was even higher: 67 in 1992, 63 in 1994.

In 1995, 45 of the Court’s civil decisions were published below.  Since then, the yearly number has generally been in the high 20s and 30s.  In 1996, 34 of the court’s civil decisions were published below.  In 1997, 38 were.  Forty-seven were in 1998, but in the next five years, that fell to 30, 28, 29, 36 and 37.  Forty civil decisions were published below in 2004.  In 2005, 33 were.  In 2006, it was 43.  In 2007, 29 civil decisions were published below.  In 2008, 40 cases were published, but the number has been consistently lower since: 33 in 2009, 29 in 2010, 36 in 2011, 34 in 2012, 31 in 2013, 15 in 2014, 35 in 2015, 20 in 2016 and 25 in 2017.

But these are just the raw numbers.  Is the apparent drop in published lower court decisions in the Court’s civil docket a real trend, or a result of the total caseload edging downward in recent years?  In our next table, we report published Appellate Court decisions as a percentage of the total civil docket.

The table shows that the apparent downward trend in civil cases published below is indeed a result of a slightly lower case load, rather than the court consistently hearing more Rule 23 orders.  In 1990, 62.92% of the Court’s civil decisions were published below.  In 1991, it was 81.13%; in 1992, 72.83%; in 1993, 82.05%; in 1994, 84%, and in 1995, 80.36%.  In 1996, 61.82% of the court’s civil decisions were published below.  That figure remained fairly flat for the next two years – 60.32% in 1997, 66.2% in 1998.  In 1999, 73.17% of the civil docket was published below.  In 2000, 73.68% was.  In 2001, 56.86% of the civil docket was published below.  In 2002, 72% was.  The following year, 80.43% was published below, but in 2004, the number fell slightly to 74.07%, and again in 2005 to 68.75%.

In 2006, 87.76% of the civil decisions were published below.  There was a one-year dip in 2007 to 70.73%, but the number was consistent for the six years following: 95.24% in 2008; 80.48% in 2009; 87.88% in 2010; 94.74% in 2011; 85% in 2012 and 91.18% in 2013.  In 2014, the published share of the civil docket dropped to 55.56%, but it rose back to 79.55% in 2015, 71.43% in 2016 and 92.59% in 2017.

Join us back here tomorrow as we review the numbers for the criminal side of the docket.

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

Does Dissent at the Appellate Court Predict Division in Criminal Cases at the Supreme Court?

Yesterday, we looked at the year-by-year data on the civil side of the docket, asking whether a dissent at the Appellate Court tends to indicate that one or more dissenters are likely at the Supreme Court.  Today, we’re looking at the same question on the criminal side.

In Table 676, we report the absolute numbers – how many unanimous decisions had a dissent below, and how many non-unanimous decisions did.  Although the number is nearly always higher among unanimous decisions, of course, unanimous decisions are far more common in the criminal docket than non-unanimous decisions are.

So in Table 677, we report the same data as a fraction of the whole – what percentage of unanimous and non-unanimous decisions had a dissenter below.  Here, we see indications that on the criminal side, dissent at the Appellate Court actually is a moderately successful predictor that the Supreme Court will be divided – in seventeen of twenty-eight years, the share of non-unanimous decisions which were divided was higher than the share of unanimous decisions.

In 1990, the numbers were nearly equal – 21.82% unanimous decisions, 21.43% non-unanimous.  In 1991, twice as many unanimous decisions had a dissent below – 29.55% of unanimous decisions, 14.29% of non-unanimous ones.  But in 1992, only 9.21% of unanimous decisions had a dissent below, while one-quarter of the non-unanimous decisions did.  In 1993, none of the unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but 14.29% of the non-unanimous cases did.  In 1994, 12.5% of the Court’s unanimous criminal cases had a dissent below, but 20% of the non-unanimous criminal decisions did.

None of the Court’s unanimous criminal decisions in 1995 and 1996 had a dissent below; 9.38% of the non-unanimous decisions in 1995 and 5.88% in 1996 did.  In 1997, 7.89% of the unanimous decisions and 12% of the non-unanimous decisions were divided below.  In 1998, 6% of the unanimous decisions and 9.09% of the non-unanimous decisions were divided below.  In 1999, 20.83% of the unanimous decisions and 6.9% of the non-unanimous decisions were divided.  The following year, 8.7% of the unanimous decisions and 6.35% of the non-unanimous decisions had dissenters below.

In 2001, 11.43% of the Court’s unanimous criminal decisions and 4.35% of the non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below.  In 2002, the numbers were similar: 13.16% of unanimous decisions, 6.25% of non-unanimous decisions.  In 2003, 14.29% of unanimous decisions and 13.33% of non-unanimous decisions were divided below.  In 2004, 25.53% of unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but 40% of the non-unanimous decisions did.  In 2005, a quarter of the Court’s unanimous criminal decisions had a dissent, but 36.36% of the non-unanimous decisions did.  In 2006, 19.44% of the unanimous decisions and 28.57% of the non-unanimous decisions were divided below.  In 2007, one quarter of the unanimous criminal decisions and 37.5% of the non-unanimous decisions were divided.  In 2008, the sides of the criminal docket were virtually identical – 26.19% of the unanimous decisions and one-quarter of the non-unanimous decisions were divided below.  In 2009, only 7.5% of the unanimous criminal decisions were divided below, but once again, a quarter of the non-unanimous decisions were.

In 2010, 31.71% of the unanimous criminal decisions and 28.57% of the non-unanimous decisions had a dissenter below.  The following year, 18.92% of the unanimous decisions had a dissenter below, but nearly half of the non-unanimous decisions did (45.45%).  In 2012, 21.74% of the unanimous decisions were divided, and forty percent of the non-unanimous decisions were.  In 2013, 17.86% of the unanimous decisions had a dissenter below, but none of the non-unanimous cases did.  In 2014, 22.22% of the unanimous decisions and 28.57% of the non-unanimous decisions were divided below.  In 2015, 29.63% of the unanimous criminal decisions and half of the non-unanimous decisions were divided.  In 2016, 21.43% of the unanimous decisions and 14.29% of the non-unanimous decisions were divided.  Last year, the two sides of the criminal docket were nearly identical – 20% of the unanimous decisions and 22.22% of the non-unanimous ones had a dissenter below.

Join us back here next week as we continue our ongoing analysis of the Court’s decision making.

Image courtesy of Flickr by RussellStreet (no changes).

Does Dissent at the Appellate Court Predict Dissent in Civil Cases at the Supreme Court?

Last time, we tracked the year-by-year data, testing the proposition that most of the Court’s cases are sufficiently “close calls” to have brought a dissent at the Appellate Court.  This week, we’re testing another proposition – does dissent at the Appellate Court suggest that there’s going to be one or more dissenters at the Supreme Court?

In Table 674, we track the absolute numbers – how many of the Court’s unanimous civil decisions had a dissent below versus how many of the Court’s non-unanimous decisions did.  We see in the blue line that in most years – twenty of twenty-eight, to be precise – there are more unanimous decisions than non-unanimous ones arising from divided decisions below.

In Table 675, we report the same data with the number of divided Appellate Court decisions on each side of the ledger reported as a portion of the whole: in other words, if the Court decided three civil cases unanimously, and one had a dissent at the Appellate Court, then we would report 33.33%.

Evaluated this way, it begins to appear that dissent at the Appellate Court is not a strong predictor of dissent at the Supreme Court.  A higher portion of non-unanimous civil decisions had a dissent below in fifteen of the twenty-eight years.

In 1990, 20% of the unanimous civil cases and 36.84% of the non-unanimous ones had a dissent below.  In 1991, 30% of the unanimous decisions and 23.08% of the non-unanimous ones did.  In 1992, 25.81% of the unanimous decisions had a dissent below, but only 16.67% of the non-unanimous ones did.  In 1993, 16.67% of the unanimous decisions and 28.57% of the non-unanimous ones had a dissent below.  The following year, 34.15% of the unanimous decisions and 20.59% of the non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below.  In 1995, the numbers were roughly equal – 28.57% of unanimous decisions and 23.81% of non-unanimous ones had a dissent below.  In 1996, 17.65% of unanimous civil decisions and 28.57% of non-unanimous decisions had a dissent below.  In 1997, the numbers dropped on both sides, to 6.45% of unanimous decisions and 12.5% of non-unanimous decisions.  In 1998, 20.59% of unanimous decisions and 10.81% of non-unanimous decisions were divided below.

In 1999, a quarter of unanimous civil decisions had a dissent below, but 47.62% of non-unanimous decisions did.  In 2000, 22.73% of unanimous decisions and 18.75% of non-unanimous decisions were divided below.  In 2001, both sides fell sharply – 7.89% of unanimous decisions, 7.69% of non-unanimous cases.  The following  year, 21.21% of unanimous civil decisions had a dissent below, but 41.18% of non-unanimous cases did.  In 2003, the relationship flipped – 28.57% of non-unanimous decisions were divided below, but 40.63% of unanimous decisions were.  In 2004, 17.5% of unanimous decisions were divided, but 21.43% of non-unanimous decisions were.

For the next two years, the share on both sides was fairly stable – 20.51% (2005) and 17.24% (2006) for unanimous decisions, 33.33% (2005) and 35% (2006) for non-unanimous cases.  In 2007, a third of the unanimous civil decisions were divided below, but fully half of the non-unanimous decisions were.  In 2008, 30% of unanimous decisions were divided below, and a third of non-unanimous decisions were.  In 2009, 20.59% of unanimous decisions and 42.86% of non-unanimous decisions were divided.  In 2010, the numbers were close to equal – 37.5% of unanimous decisions and one-third of the non-unanimous civil decisions.  In 2011, only 13.79% of the unanimous civil decisions had a dissenter below, but two-thirds of the non-unanimous decisions did.  The following year, things were much closer again, as 27.27% of the unanimous decisions and a third of the non-unanimous decisions were divided below.  In 2013, 35% of unanimous decisions and only 21.43% of non-unanimous decisions had a dissenter.  In 2014, 19.05% of unanimous decisions had a dissenter below, but none of the non-unanimous cases did.  In 2015, 34.29% of unanimous decisions had a dissenter below, and a third of the non-unanimous cases did.  In 2016, 19.05% of unanimous decisions were divided, but only 14.29% of non-unanimous cases were.  Last year, 38.1% of the Court’s unanimous civil decisions had a dissenter below, and 40% of the non-unanimous decisions did.

Join us back here next time as we review the Court’s criminal docket.

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

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