Last week, we showed that between 2000 and 2004, in a variety of areas of civil law, the Court tended to review more liberal decisions from the Appellate Court than conservative ones. Yesterday, we showed that things were at least somewhat more balanced during those years on the criminal side. The Court reviewed more liberal decisions in only seven of thirteen areas of the criminal law in which it decided cases. Today, we turn to our second question, contrasting reversal rates for liberal and conservative decisions in each area of the criminal law.
In Table 309, we report the reversal rates for liberal decisions – nearly always, favoring criminal defendants – and conservative ones favoring the state. Of course, since the death penalty docket was an automatic appeal, by definition all the cases were conservative decisions below. Even limiting our definition of “reversal” to cases where the death penalty itself was overturned, the Court reversed 42.42% of all death cases. In habeas corpus cases, the Court reversed 31.25% of conservative decisions favoring the State, and 55.56% of pro-defendant decisions. The Court reversed in 60% of pro-government sentencing cases, but 78.57% of the time in pro-defendant cases. In criminal procedure cases, the Court reversed half of pro-government decisions, but 60.71% of all decisions favoring the defendant below. Interestingly, reversal rates in constitutional law cases were quite low during these years. The Court reversed 36.67% of pro-government decisions from the Appellate Court, and one third of pro-defendant decisions. Reversal was also comparatively uncommon in the Court’s juvenile cases – the Court reversed only 30.77% of decisions favoring the government, but only 26.67% of decisions favoring the defendant.
Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn to an area-by-area analysis of reversal rates in the civil docket between 2005 and 2009.