This time, we’re reviewing the Districts which produced the Supreme Court’s tort caseload, and the Court’s reversal rate, District by District.

The Supreme Court decided 67 tort cases from the First District between 1990 and 1999.  The Court decided 26 cases from the Second District, 9 from the Third, 21 from the Fourth District and 26 from the Fifth District.

The Divisions of the First District varied widely in their reversal rate for the 90s.  Division 1 had an 87.5% reversal rate.  Division Two had only 53.85%.  From Division Three, 70.59% were reversed.  The reversal rate from Division Four was 72.73%.  The rate from Division Five was 71.43%.  The reversal rate from Division Six was 54.55%.  The reversal rate in the Second District was only 46.15%.  Two-thirds of the cases from the Third District were reversed.  The reversal rate from the Fourth District was 52.38%.  The Fifth District’s reversal rate was 76.92%.

Join us back here next week we continue our examination of the Court’s tort docket.

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

For the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a deep dive on the Supreme Court’s tort cases.  To begin, we’ll consider whether there is any relationship between the party which won at the Appellate Court and the result at the Supreme Court for the years 1990 through 1999.

The reversal rate for tort cases at the Supreme Court was around the same level at the beginning of the decade: 60% in 1990 and 50% in 1991 and 1992.  After a brief dip in 1993, the reversal rate was 53.33% in 1994 before rising to 80.95% in 1995 and 80% in 1996.  The reversal rate was 41.18% in 1997.  It rose to 64.71% in 1998 before falling a bit to 53.85% in 1999.

Next, we divide the tort cases into defendants’ wins at the Appellate Court (affirmed by the Supreme Court and reversed) and plaintiffs’ wins below.  In 1990, the records were identical – 4 reversals of 6 cases, defendants and plaintiffs.  In 1991, there were six plaintiffs’ wins decided at the Supreme Court (all reversed) and two defendants’ wins (both reversed).  In 1992, the Court decided seven of nine defendants’ wins and the Court decided twelve of nineteen plaintiffs’ wins.  In 1994, the Court decided ten plaintiffs’ wins to five defendants’ wins.  In 1995, the Court decided fifteen plaintiffs’ wins to only six defendants’ wins.  In 1996, the Court decided twelve plaintiffs’ wins to only three defendants’ wins.  In 1998, the Court decided thirteen plaintiffs’ wins to four defendants’ wins.

Join us back here next time as we continue to review the data for the years 1990 through 1999.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Scott McLeod (no changes).

This time, we’re reviewing the Court’s docket data on the criminal (quasi-criminal, juvenile justice and mental health) side of the docket, calculating the percentage of cases year-by-year that arose from final judgments.  Although it’s a minimal issue for this period since the death penalty was abolished in Illinois in 2011, we separate out the death cases – so for 2010 we report the share of the docket accounted for by final judgments and death penalty appeals.

Until 2020, the share has been remarkably stable across the past eleven years.  In 2010, 56.36% of the docket was either final judgments or death cases.  That fell to 48.48% in 2012 and only 38.24% by 2014, but then increased to 42.42% in 2015, 51.43% in 2016 and 52.94% in 2017.  The share fell off a bit in 2017 (46.15%) and 2018 (47.62%) but jumped all the way to 67.86% in 2020.

Since 1990, the Supreme Court has decided 1,614 criminal cases.  One hundred ninety seven were death penalty appeals and an additional 628 were decisions from the Appellate Court that arose from final judgments.  So for the full thirty-one years, the share of the docket accounted for by final judgments only was 38.91%.  Add the death penalty appeals back in for the years before 2011, and the share jumps to 51.12%.

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

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

Today, we’re winding up our three-week trip through the data, asking whether the Supreme Court prefers to review final judgments.  First up – civil cases for the years 2010 to 2020.

As shown in Table 1789, the share of the Court’s civil docket accounted for by final judgments has dipped between ten and twenty percentage points over the past eleven years.  In 2010, 69.7% of the civil docket arose from final judgments.  That rose to 85.19% by 2014.  It then immediately fell to only 56.82% in 2015.  In 2017, the share rebounded to 69.23%, but was then back to 54.55% in 2018 and 52.94% in 2019 before rising to 65.63% in 2020.

Across the entire thirty-one years since 1990, the Supreme Court has decided 1,451 civil cases.  Eight hundred sixty-four of those cases have arisen from final judgments for a share of only 59.55% of the civil docket.

So does the Supreme Court prefer to review final judgments in civil cases?  The data since 1990 says no.

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

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).