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Yesterday, we began our investigation of the importance of dissents at the Appellate Court for litigation at the Illinois Supreme Court.  We demonstrated that the often-heard claim that obtaining review at the Court is impossible without an Appellate Court dissent isn’t true, either on the civil or the criminal side.  Today, we address a related question: does a dissent at the Appellate Court reliably predict that there will be dissenters at the Illinois Supreme Court?

In Table 227 below, we plot the fraction of the Supreme Court’s non-unanimous and unanimous civil decisions which involved a dissent at the Appellate Court.  The table shows that dissent below is not an especially strong predictor of dissent at the Supreme Court.  Non-unanimous Supreme Court decisions were more likely than unanimous ones to involve a dissent below for only nine of the sixteen years since 2000.  In 2002, 41.18% of non-unanimous decisions involved a dissent below to only 21.21% for unanimous cases.  In 2005, one-third of non-unanimous decisions involved a dissent below to 20.51% for unanimous decisions.  The following year, 35% of non-unanimous decisions involved a dissent below to 17.24% for unanimous decisions.  In the years immediately following 2006, the share of dissents for unanimous and non-unanimous decisions remained quite close.  But in 2011, two-thirds of non-unanimous decisions involved dissents below to only 13.79% for unanimous cases.  The largest margins for unanimous decisions were in 2003 (40.63% unanimous, 28.57% non-unanimous), 2013 (35% unanimous, 21.43% non-unanimous), and 2014 (19.05% unanimous, 0% non-unanimous).

Table 227

The data for unanimous and non-unanimous criminal decisions in reported below in Table 228.  In contrast to civil cases, dissent below was more common in non-unanimous decisions nearly every year.  By 2005, 40% of non-unanimous criminal cases involved dissents below, to 25% for unanimous cases.  By 2009, 23.08% of non-unanimous decisions involved dissents to 7.69% for unanimous decisions.  In 2011, the margin was even larger – 45.45% for non-unanimous cases to 18.92% for unanimous decisions.  In 2013, 23.08% of non-unanimous decisions involved dissents to only 8% of unanimous cases.  By 2015, half of non-unanimous cases involved dissents below to 29.63% of unanimous decisions.

Table 228

Join us back here next week, as we turn to the importance of published decisions from the Appellate Court in the Illinois Supreme Court’s civil and criminal dockets.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jeff Sharp (no changes).