Yesterday, we looked at whether the rate at which the Illinois Supreme Court grants petitions for leave to appeal differs significantly depending on the time of year. We showed that it does – the Court’s overall grant rate tends to be lower in the fall than in the spring, and at its lowest during the September term. Today, we look at the PLA data in another way and ask – does the term effect vary from one District of the Appellate Court to another?
In fact, a PLA’s chances do vary significantly during the year depending on the District, and not solely in a way that mirrors the statewide trends we discussed yesterday. In Table 290, we report the grant rate for civil PLAs, divided by term (to make the chart easier to follow, we ignore for these purposes the off-term months). Although the statewide grant rate tends to be lower in the fall, in fact the rate for First District civil cases is the highest of all during the November term – 7.34%. Nearly as many are granted in March – 6.35% – and May – 6.98%. During the Court’s busiest month of September, 4.99% of civil PLAs from the First District are granted. The hardest term to bring a civil PLA from the First District is January, when only 4.86% are granted.
On the other hand, January is the second-best term to be coming from the Second District, with 8.45% of civil PLAs granted. The Court has granted 8.62% in March. The Second’s grant rate in November is almost exactly what the First District’s was – 7.43% of civil PLAs. The most difficult time of the year to be coming from the Second District is late spring and early fall. During May, the Court has granted 5.6% of civil PLAs from the Second, and only 5.65% during September.
The Third, Fourth and Fifth Districts tend to mirror the statewide trends more closely. The best month to be coming from the Third District is March, with 10.91% of civil PLAs granted. May is only a bit behind, with 9.09% granted, and 8.45% are granted in January. The grant rate for the remaining two terms is sharply lower – the Court grants only 5.21% of civil PLAs from the Third in November, and only 4.93% in September.
March is also preferable for petitioners coming from the Fourth District, with the Court granting 9.64% of civil PLAs. The grant rate for May term PLAs is 7.21%, and the Court grants 6.67% in January. The worst month of all to arrive from the Fourth District is November (the best month to be from the First), with a grant rate of only 5.21%. September, on the other hand, was almost indistinguishable from May for civil PLAs coming from the Fourth – 7.22% were granted.
The biggest term impact of all was in the Fifth District. The fall was a more difficult time for civil PLAs arising from the Fifth District, with the Court granting only 4.92% in September and 3.91% in November. But the spring terms varied substantially for PLAs from the Fifth. The Court granted 10.47% of civil PLAs from the Fifth in January. But only 6.8% were granted in May. March was the hardest month for civil PLAs from the Fifth District (and the lowest grant rate of any term for any District) – the Court granted only 1.56% of all civil PLAs from the Fifth District in March.
We turn to the data for criminal PLAs in Table 291 below. We find almost no term effect at all on criminal PLAs from the First District; the Court granted between two and three percent in every term of the year. The term made more of a difference elsewhere in the State, though. May was the best month for the Second District, with 5.96% of criminal PLAs granted. March was second, with 4.48% grants. The worst month for the Second District was November, when only 2.98% of criminal PLAs were granted (however, that was still a higher grant rate than the First District had in any term). The term made a substantial difference for the Third District too. In May, 7.36% of criminal PLAs from the Third were granted, and 7.43% were granted in November. The grant rate fell to 5.81% in March. The hardest month for the Third District was January term, when only 4.55% of criminal PLAs were granted. September was only a little better, with a grant rate of 4.72%.
Late spring was the best time to bring a criminal PLA from the Fourth District. January and November were roughly equal – 3.51% granted in January term, 3.57% in November – but the Court granted 4.8% in March and 4.68% in May. The Court’s busiest month, September, was the roughest month for the Fourth District, with only 2.84% of criminal PLAs granted. Just as was the case on the civil side, grant rates for the Fifth District show a greater term effect than anywhere else in the state. January, March and September are more or less equivalent for the Fifth District, with grant rates of 3.49%, 3.57% and 3.09% respectively. But grant rates sunk to almost nothing in May and November. The Court granted 0.91% of criminal PLAs from the Fifth in May and only 0.93% in November – by far the lowest grant rates in the state for any District by term.
With the exception of March, when 5.29% of civil PLAs from the First District were denied with a supervisory order, the rate on supervisory orders was flat for the First throughout the year. Supervisory orders were rarer for the Second District, with 3.2% in May, less than 2% in March and November, and less than 1% in January and September. The Third District varied substantially, with 7.27% of civil PLAs denied with supervisory orders in March and 4.23% in January, as compared to only 2.82% in September, 1% in November and none at all in May. The Fourth District was fairly flat – 4.42% of civil PLAs drew supervisory orders in May, but the rate was between 0 and 2% the rest of the year.
Supervisory orders were more common for civil cases in the Fifth District than anywhere else in the State. In March, 10.94% of civil PLAs from the Fifth drew such orders. The numbers were nearly as high in May – 9.71% – and November, at 8.59%. January was down for the Fifth, although at 6.98%, it was still quite high compared to the rest of the state. Only 3.83% of civil PLAs from the Fifth brought supervisory orders during the September term.
Finally, we turn to the rate of supervisory orders in criminal PLAs. Once again, we see evidence of at least a moderate term effect. Supervisory orders were more common in March than any other time of year for the First District (just as was true on the civil side), with 14.59% of PLAs drawing orders. The rate was only half that in January and September – 7.56% and 6.13%, respectively. Such orders were comparatively scarce in May (3.48%) and November (2.43%). March was the heaviest month for the Second District too, with 7.46% of criminal PLAs drawing supervisory orders. Another 5.94% received orders during the January term. The rate dropped sharply the rest of the year: 2.29% in May, 2.05% in September, and only 1.7% in November.
Supervisory orders are spread fairly evenly throughout the year for the Third District, with between four and six percent of criminal PLAs drawing orders in the January, March, September and November terms. Only in May did the orders become really scarce, at 1.23%. The usual effect was reversed for the Fourth District – supervisory orders were more common late in the year than in the spring. During the September term, 9.37% of criminal PLAs from the Fourth drew supervisory orders, and 7.94% did in November. March was nearly as high, at 6.8%, but such orders were comparatively uncommon in January (3.51%) and March (2.55%).
Supervisory orders were most common in criminal cases during the March term for the Fifth District (this was true everywhere in the state except the Fourth District). The Court issued orders in 7.14% of criminal PLAs decided that month. The rate was only half that in May at 3.64%, below 3% in the fall (2.47% in September, 2.8% in November), and was only 1.16% in the January term.
A few weeks ago, I pointed out that although everyone (including us) reports reversal rates for intermediate appellate courts, it is a somewhat unfair statistic, given that for every case which winds up being reversed, the Court has declined to hear another thirty to forty cases. Join us back here next week and we’ll combine our work on reversal rates and PLA grant rates to propose a “true” reversal rate for each District of the Appellate Court.