Last week, we addressed the statewide data from the Illinois Supreme Court’s resolution of petitions for leave to appeal. This week, we turn to a related question – does the time of year matter for your chances of getting a PLA granted?
In fact, the Court’s workload varies depending on the time of year, a fact which we would expect might impact the rate at which PLAs are granted. In Table 285 below, we report the total number of petitions ruled upon by the Court, month by month, between 2007 and 2015. The workload is at least roughly equivalent on the civil side for four of the Court’s five yearly terms. The Court has ruled upon 810 civil petitions during January, 696 in March, and 950 in November. We might expect the May term to be somewhat busier as litigants hurry to get their petitions filed before the pace slows somewhat in the summer, but in fact, it’s not – May is the second lightest workload for our nine years, with 803 PLAs ruled on. But we see the impact of the summer in the September term, when the Court has decided 1,501 petitions, nearly double the Court’s workload in the other terms.
The pattern on the criminal side is quite similar. The Court has decided 1,750 PLAs during January for the nine years, and March (1,817), May (1,645) and November (1,785) are all comparable. But the September term is extremely busy on the criminal side of the docket – the Court has decided 2,870 PLAs in September since 2007.
In Table 286 below, we report the percentage of PLAs granted in civil cases between 2007 and 2015 in each month (keeping in mind that the off-term months are based on very small numbers of PLAs, so we shouldn’t take the grant rates for those months all that seriously). The year begins with 6.67% of civil PLAs being granted in January. The March term is pretty much the same – the Court has granted 7.04% of civil PLAs decided during March since 2007. Nor does the grant rate drop off in May as the Court prepares for the summer – 6.97% of all civil PLAs decided in May have been granted.
The second half of the year tends to be more difficult for civil PLAs. Only 6.42% are granted during the November term. During the September term, with workload at its highest level, not surprisingly the grant rate is at its lowest level – only 5.33% of civil PLAs decided during September have been granted since 2007. Meanwhile, in the off-term months, no civil PLAs at all have been granted during February, June, August, October or December. April has seen 12.5% of civil PLAs granted (only 8 have been decided in that month since 2007), and two of ten civil PLAs decided in July have been granted.
The pattern is similar on the criminal side – the optimum time to bring a criminal PLA to the Court is in the first five months of the year. January saw 3.31% of criminal PLAs granted, and March and May were only slightly higher – 3.47% in March, 3.77% in May. Meanwhile, in the off-term months, 5.26% of the small number of PLAs decided in February were granted, and 7.69% were granted in April. Over the summer, 15.38% of criminal PLAs were granted in June, 9.52% in August, and none at all in July. In November, only 3.19% of criminal PLAs were granted – lower than any month in the first half of the year. But in September, with workload at its highest level, the criminal grant rate was at its lowest, with only 2.96% of all criminal PLAs granted. The Court decided 10 criminal PLAs each in October and December during our nine years’ study period, granting two in October and 3 in December.
We turn next to the “half a loaf” result for the petitioner – denied, but with a supervisory order to the Appellate Court to reconsider its decision. In Table 288 below, we report the month-by-month data on civil PLAs denied each month with a supervisory order. Although these numbers vary significantly more than the grant rate, the overall pattern is the same – the Court is significantly more likely to deny with a supervisory order in the first five months of the year than it is after the Court returns from the summer. The Court has issued supervisory orders in 2.46% of civil PLAs decided in January, but has done so in 4.89% of March cases. May has fallen in between the two – the Court has issued supervisory orders in 3.61% of civil PLAs decided in May. Meanwhile, the Court has issued no supervisory orders at all in connection with civil PLAs in February, April, July or August. The Court has issued such orders in 12.5% of the tiny number of civil PLAs decided in June.
The Court has issued supervisory orders in only 2.84% of civil PLAs decided during November – more than in January, but less than in March or May. In the busiest month of September, the Court has issued supervisory orders in only 2.13% of civil cases. The Court has issued supervisory orders in two of the six civil PLAs decided in October and none at all in December.
The data on supervisory orders in criminal PLAs is varies along an unexpectedly wide band. May and November are the most difficult months to get such a result – only 2.46% of criminal PLAs decided in November brought a supervisory order, and only 2.98% of May PLAs did. But the other term months were significantly higher; in September, 5.54% of criminal PLAs resulted in supervisory orders. In January, 6.17% of criminal PLAs brought such orders. Most surprisingly of all, fully 11.56% of criminal PLAs decided during March have resulted in supervisory orders. In off-term months, supervisory orders have been extremely rare. Ten percent of PLAs decided in October have turned out that way, and 5.56% in July, but none in February, April, June, August or December.
We’ve established that the term does matter to a petitioner’s chance of getting a PLA granted at the Illinois Supreme Court. Tomorrow, we turn to a slightly different question: does that effect differ among the districts of the Appellate Court?