Last week, we began reviewing the data for the Illinois Supreme Court’s unanimity and dissent rates in civil and criminal cases between 2000 and 2015. We also considered how many of the non-unanimous civil decisions qualified as “lopsided” – meaning that they featured only one dissenter. Today, we consider the rate of lopsided decisions on the criminal side, comparing it to the rate of lopsidedness on the civil side.
Although the rate of lopsided decisions on the criminal side was generally at least slightly below the civil side – it exceeded the civil side in only six of the sixteen years – the difference was seldom very large. The period begins in 2000, when two-thirds of the criminal cases were either unanimous or one-dissenter, while 73.68% of the civil side were. The difference was twelve points in 2002 (67.14% criminal to 79.59% civil), and eighteen points the following year (64.62% criminal to 82.61% civil), but only three points in 2005 (92.86% criminal to 95.83% civil) and a third of a point the next year (84% criminal to 83.67% civil). The lopsided decision rate on the criminal side was below 80% only two (2011 and 2013) of the twelve years between 2004 and 2015 (the same thing is true of the civil side, but the dips were in different years). The difference between the two sides of the docket during the past three years has been virtually nothing – 78.95% to 79.41% in 2013; 85.29% to 85.19% in 2014; and 87.88% to 88.64% in 2015.
Join us back here tomorrow as we examine a historical issue – the Court’s unanimity rate in its death penalty appeal docket between 2000 and 2011, when Illinois abolished the death penalty.