Last week, we continued our close look at the Illinois Supreme Court’s reversal rates, divided by the area of law and the prevailing party below, with a look at the civil docket between 2005 and 2009. Today, we continue our analysis of that period with a look at the criminal, quasi-criminal, juvenile and disciplinary docket.
In Table 313 below, we report the percentage share of the docket accounted for by each area of law. Criminal procedure cases shot to the top of the docket, amounting to just short of one-third of the caseload at 30% – more than double its share in the previous five years. Constitutional law was once again the leading subject on the docket, accounting for 23.33% of the caseload, but that was down slightly from the previous five years. Cases involving sentencing law were up significantly – 12.08% of the docket between 2005 and 2009, compared to only 7.44% between 2000 and 2004. Habeas corpus cases, the second most common area of the docket in the previous five years (at 21.73%), were down sharply, accounting for only 9.17% of the docket between 2005 and 2009. Juvenile offenses were down slightly at 7.5% of the docket. Death penalty appeals, which had accounted for 10.12% of the criminal docket between 2000 and 2004, fell to only 3.75% of the Court’s criminal caseload during this period. Violent crimes were flat at 2.92% of the docket, and sex crimes were down slightly, also at 2.92%. Drug crimes were up, rising from 0.89% of the docket between 2000 and 2004 to 2.08% of the caseload during these years. Property and vehicle crimes were up a bit, both accounting for 1.67% of the caseload. Attorney disciplinary cases were down somewhat, with published opinions in argued cases accounting for only 1.25% of the caseload. The Court heard two cases involving the pardon power, and one each involving mental health and alcohol crimes.
In Table 314 below, we report the percentage of the total caseload in each area of the law in which the criminal defendant prevailed below. We see here that the Court drew its criminal caseload somewhat more evenly from decisions favoring the prosecution below than it had in the previous five years. Once again, death penalty appeals, which were automatically taken straight from the Circuit Court to the Supreme Court, show zero pro-defendant decisions below, but disregarding that area, in eight of thirteen areas of the law, pro-prosecution decisions at the Appellate Court were more common on the Court’s docket than pro-defendant ones. The Court’s small caseload in vehicle crimes and the pardon power was evenly divided. In criminal procedure, 46.48% of the caseload involved defense wins below. In the sentencing cases, 46.43% were defense wins. In habeas corpus, 45.45% of the caseload involved defense wins. Four-tenths of the drug law cases came from defense wins below, and 37.5% of the cases involving violent crimes. Only 28.57% of the cases involving sexual offenses were defense wins below.
Only three areas of the law were predominantly made up of defense-side wins from the Appellate Court: property law crimes (75%); juvenile offenses (64.71%) and constitutional law (60.71%).
Join us back here tomorrow as we turn to analyzing the comparative reversal rates of pro-defendant and pro-government decisions below at the Illinois Supreme Court.