Yesterday, we announced the expansion of our data library on the work of the Illinois Supreme Court to encompass all of the Court’s decisions since January 1, 2000 – civil, criminal, quasi-criminal and disciplinary. Today, we begin the next phase of our analysis of the Court’s work.
We begin by revisiting one of the first issues we addressed last year – does the Court exhibit any preference for reviewing final over interlocutory decisions from the trial courts?
Table 134 charts the sources of appellate jurisdiction for the Court’s civil docket between the years 2000 and 2004, the first five years of our sixteen-year study period. In all years, final decisions reviewed under Supreme Court Rule 301 are the biggest part of the Court’s civil docket, but not overwhelmingly so. In 2000, 65.8% of the Court’s civil docket (25 cases) arose under Rule 301. Two years later, the fraction rose slightly to 70% (35 cases), but in each of the other three years, Rule 301 accounted for between 58 and 61% of the Court’s civil docket.
Rule 302 – direct appeals to the Supreme Court from the trial courts, typically in cases where a Circuit Court has struck down a statute – amounted to only 2.6% of the Court’s civil docket in 2000, but increased to 11.8% in 2001 (6 cases). Although the fraction accounted for by Rule 302 dipped slightly in 2003 and 2004, it returned to just over 11% in 2004.
Rule 304 governs appeals of final judgments in certain enumerated special proceedings and “final” judgments which don’t dispose of all claims against all parties (most Rule 304 orders require a special finding by the trial court). Rule 304 appeals were 13.2% of the Court’s civil docket in 2000 (5 cases), and increased slightly the following year to 15.7% of the docket (8 cases) before dipping a bit in the succeeding years.
The remaining sources of civil jurisdiction played more minor roles in the Court’s docket. Rule 306 – interlocutory appeals by permission – was 13% of the civil docket in 2003 (6 cases), but only 2% the previous year. The Court heard no Rule 306 cases at all in 2000-2001 and 2004. Rule 307 (interlocutory appeals as of right) and Rule 308 appeals (certified questions) amounted to between four and eight percent of the Court’s civil docket in most of these years. Certified questions from the Seventh Circuit, statutory appeals and appeals based on constitutional provisions were an even smaller presence on the civil docket, never amounting to more than 2-3% of the total.
Now let’s contrast those results with the criminal docket during the same years. Perhaps because of the prevalence of death penalty and habeas corpus appeals, appeals from final criminal judgments under Supreme Court Rule 602 comprised a much smaller fraction of the criminal docket than Rule 301 appeals did on the civil side, ranging from 23.8% of the docket in 2000 (20 cases) to 32.1% the following year before rising to a high of 45.6% in 2004 (26 cases). Habeas cases were the second biggest fraction of the criminal docket throughout the period, even outpacing Rule 602 appeals in 2000 (34.5% – 29 cases) and 2002 (27.1% – 19 cases) before dropping to around 10% in 2003 and 2004. Death penalty appeals under Rule 609 were a significant concern as well – 20.2% of the Court’s criminal docket in 2000 (17 cases) and 13.2% the following year (7 cases) before dropping to only 2.9% in 2002 (2 cases).
Appeals under Rule 603 (direct appeals where a statute has been struck down) and Rule 604 (most appeals by the State, and appeals following guilty pleas and regarding bail decisions by the defendant) were a significant part of the Court’s docket, but varied significantly from one year to the next. For example, in 2000, Rule 603 amounted to 4.8% (4 cases) of the Court’s criminal docket. The next year, the Court heard no Rule 603 cases at all, but by 2003, Rule 603 appeals constituted 26.6% (17 cases) of the criminal/quasi-criminal/disciplinary docket. Similarly, Rule 604 appeals were only 7.1% of the criminal docket in 2000 – 6 cases – but rose to 18.6% and 20.3% in 2002 and 2003, when the Court heard 13 such cases each year.
Cases arising from statutory, constitutional and Supreme Court Rule 753 (attorney disciplinary) matters amounted to an insubstantial part of the Court’s docket throughout this initial five-year period. The Court heard 4 disciplinary cases in 2000 – 4.8% of this docket – but such cases amounted to less than 2% of the docket in 2002, 2003 and 2004. The Court heard 7 criminal cases based on various kinds of statutory jurisdiction in 2004 – 12.3% of this docket – but otherwise, statutory cases were in medium-to-low single digits as a fraction of this docket, as were cases based on constitutional jurisdiction.
Join us back here next Tuesday as we continue our examination of the Court’s docket with a look at the years 2005-2009.