Last week, we began taking a closer look at reversal rates before the Illinois Supreme Court, dividing the data by area of the law. This week, we turn to the criminal docket.
In Table 307 below, we report the percentage of the Court’s criminal, quasi-criminal, juvenile and disciplinary docket accounted for by various areas of the law between 2000 and 2004. The single biggest area of the docket is constitutional law, which accounts for 25.89% of the docket. Habeas corpus cases are another 21.73% of the cases. Only two other areas of the law account for more than ten percent of the docket – 14.58% of the docket is criminal procedure cases, and 10.12% arises from death penalty cases (an area of the law now abolished). Juvenile cases of various kinds are 8.33% of the docket. Another 7.44% involve sentencing issues. Sexual crimes account for 3.57% of the criminal caseload. Issues involving violent crimes are 2.98% of the criminal docket. Attorney disciplinary cases which result in published opinions were relatively rare during these years, accounting for only 2.08% of the docket. Mental health cases were 1.19% of the docket. The rest of the criminal docket consisted of four areas of law amounting to less than one percent of the docket each – drug crimes (0.89%), property crimes (0.6%), vehicle and administrative crimes (0.3% each).
We now turn to the breakdown of the Court’s criminal caseload between pro-defense and pro-prosecution decisions from the Appellate Court. In Table 308 below, we show the percentage of total cases in each area of law which involved liberal – i.e., pro-defendant – decisions from the Appellate Court. This Table suggests that one of the factors which tended to attract the Supreme Court’s attention for purposes of granting a PLA during these years was a decision below favoring the defendant. Of course, given that the death penalty docket involved automatic appeals during this era, all the Court’s death penalty cases involved pro-defendant decisions below. Only three additional areas of law – habeas corpus (12.33%), property crimes (0%) and violent crimes (20%) were predominantly drawn from pro-prosecution decisions of the lower court. The cases arising from sexual crimes and mental health issues were evenly divided, with half the docket consisting of pro-defendant cases, and the other half pro-prosecution decisions. Slightly more than half of the juvenile law cases were pro-defendant decisions below: 53.57%. Criminal procedure cases were another 56%, and 58.33% were sentencing cases. The majority of constitutional law cases were pro-defendant decisions below: 65.52%. All of the Court’s limited caseload in drug, vehicle crimes and administrative crimes were pro-defendant decisions at the Appellate Court level.