Last week, we wrapped up our review of the District-by-District reversal rates in civil and criminal cases at the Illinois Supreme Court. Today, we begin a close look at the Court’s experience with Petitions for Leave to Appeal, or “PLAs.”
First, a few ground rules. The data is derived from the materials posted under “Leave to Appeal Dispositions” on the Court’s website, which cover the period of 2007 to the present. We don’t count cases in which the Court ultimately dismissed the case on the grounds that a party had sought and received an extension to file a PLA but ultimately opted not to do so. We count as one case instances where multiple parties to a single litigation file petitions and the Court grants them all and consolidates. We divide the petitions into three categories – denied, granted, and denied with a supervisory order. Supervisory orders as a general rule are issued in cases where the Court wants the Appellate Court to reconsider a case in light of a very recent Supreme Court decision, and we include them since they often amount to a “half a loaf” result for the petitioner, preferable to an outright denial. Finally, we’re disregarding for these purposes direct appeals from the Circuit Courts and certified questions from the Seventh Circuit so that we can focus on the Court’s discretionary docket arising from the Appellate Court.
We report the total number of PLAs ruled upon by the Court, year by year, in Table 280 below. For the entire nine years, the Court has ruled on 4,811 civil PLAs and 9,971 criminal PLAs. On the civil side, 6.32% were granted, while 2.97% were denied with a supervisory order, leaving 90.71% denied outright. The grant rate on the criminal side was lower – only 4.79% – but 5.74% of criminal PLAs were denied with a supervisory order, meaning 89.47% of all criminal PLAs since 2007 have been denied.
Civil petitions were relatively stable from 2007 until 2011, beginning at 535 in 2007, jumping to 568 the next year and rising back to 569 by 2011. Civil PLAs have declined about 11% in the years since – to 536 in 2012, 514 in 2013, 505 in 2014, and 503 in 2015.
Criminal PLAs have fallen even more precipitously. The Court ruled on 1,235 criminal PLAs in 2011, and considered between 1,100 and 1,200 each of the next three years. The Court reached its highest level in 2011 (just as was true on the civil side) with 1,348 criminal PLAs ruled on. Since then, PLAs are down 37% – to 1,159 in 2012, 956 in 2013, 942 in 2014, and 849 in 2015.
Although the Court’s flow of civil PLAs has been relatively stable over the past nine years, the rate at which the petitions are granted has varied from year to year. Grant rates were highest in 2007 – 8.41%. The civil grant rate was between six and seven percent in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The next year – when civil PLAs were at their highest level of the period – the civil grant rate fell to 5.27%. By 2014, the grant rate rose to 7.72% before falling last year to its lowest level of the past nine years – only 3.28% of civil PLAs were granted.
Despite the significant fall-off in the level of criminal PLAs being filed, the grant rate has been slightly more stable over time than on the civil side. The Court granted just short of 4% of all criminal PLAs in 2007 and 2008 (3.88% and 3.99%, respectively), before grants rose to their highest level of the period at 4.12% in 2009. It got progressively more difficult to get a criminal PLA granted for the three years that followed, with the Court granting only 3.35% in 2010, 2.67% in 2011 and 2.76% in 2012. The numbers are up only slightly since then, with the Court granting 3.03% of criminal PLAs in 2013, 3.08% in 2014 and 3.3% last year.
We report the statewide rate of denials with supervisory orders in Table 282 below. Such orders are less common than outright grants on the civil side in each of the past nine years. In 2007, the Court issued supervisory orders in 4.3% of civil PLAs. The rate fell to 3.17% the following year before increasing back to 4.06% in 2009. Since then, supervisory orders have been rarer on the civil side, with the Court issuing the orders in around 3% of cases between 2010 and 2012 (2.8%,3.16% and 3.17%), before falling to only 1.95% in 2013 and 1.39% in 2014. Supervisory orders were up slightly on the civil side in 2015, being issued in 2.78% of civil PLAs.
Supervisory orders were more common on the criminal side each year between 2007 and 2011. 2007 was an unusual year, with orders being issued in 12.07% of criminal PLAs. The orders were issued 4.26% of the time in 2008 and 5.13% the next year before jumping back to 9.44% in 2010. Curiously, between 2012 and 2015, supervisory orders have been more common on the civil side in three of four years. 2.76% of criminal PLAs received supervisory orders in 2012, 1.78% in 2013, 4.03% in 2014 and 2.24% last year.
Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the District-by-District data.