Last week, we wrapped up our review of the areas of law addressed by the Illinois Supreme Court in its civil and criminal dockets, year by year from 2000 through 2015. Today we begin a new topic – dissents at the Appellate Court. One frequently hears that there’s little chance of getting a PLA granted unless there was a dissenter at the Appellate Court. But is that actually true?
In Table 225 below, we report cases with a dissent at the Appellate Court as a fraction of the civil docket. It’s clear from the graph that the conventional wisdom isn’t true, at least on the civil docket – cases with dissents below have never reached even forty percent of the total caseload. In 2000, cases with dissents below amounted to only 21.05% of the civil docket. The number plummeted to 7.84% the following year, but was back up to 28% in 2002. 2003 was the highest year in the entire study period for the statistic – 36.96% of the Court’s civil docket arose from cases with a dissenter below. Divided cases fell off somewhat between 2004 and 2006 before rising to 36.59% in 2007. With the exception of 2014, when divided cases fell to only 14% of the civil docket, the data has remained in the 30-36% range ever since.
We report the same statistic below for the Court’s criminal docket between 2000 and 2015. Notice that divided Appellate Court decisions are somewhat less commonplace on the criminal docket throughout the sixteen-year period. In fact, 2015 was the highest year in the period – one third of the Court’s criminal cases involved a dissent at the Appellate Court. In 2010, 32.73% of the docket arose from dissents below. Between 2004 and 2008, divided decisions were between twenty and thirty percent of the criminal docket (2004: 28.07%; 2005: 27.59%; 2006: 21.57%; 2007: 28.57%; 2008: 27.45%). But in contrast, between 2000 and 2003, divided cases were only a tiny fraction of the criminal docket – (2000: 6.82%; 2001: 8.62%; 2002: 10%; 2003: 13.85%).
Tomorrow, we’ll turn to a related question: are dissents at the Appellate Court a reliable predictor of dissents at the Supreme Court?