Yesterday, we took a look at the criminal docket at the Illinois Supreme Court between 2005 and 2009 – specifically, the fraction of the Court’s caseload, one area of the law at a time, which consisted of defendants prevailing below, versus government wins which the Court decided to review. Today, we address the follow-up question – did the Court tend to reverse defendant or government wins in each area of the law at a higher rate?
We report the reversal rates for each area in Table 315 below. We see clear evidence of a Court which remained skeptical of constitutional innovation – 60.71% of the caseload in constitutional law was defense wins from the Appellate Court, and the Court reversed 79.41% of defense wins, to only 27.27% of government wins. In juvenile law, the only other area where more than half the Court’s caseload arose from defense wins below, the Court reversed 81.82% of defense wins from the Appellate Court, but also reversed two-thirds of government wins.
Among the areas of law where most of the caseload involved government wins below, the Court reversed 70% of defense wins in habeas cases, but three-quarters of government wins too. In cases involving criminal procedure, the Court once again showed a bit of a conservative bent, reversing 69.7% of defense wins, but only 34.21% of government wins. Sentencing cases were almost evenly distributed – the Court’s caseload was very nearly half defense wins and half government wins, and the Court reversed 53.85% of the defense wins, and 46.67% of the government’s wins. The Court also reversed 22.22% of the death penalty appeals it decided (just as we did with the 2000-2004 data, we’re defining “reversed” strictly here to include only those cases where the Court reversed the penalty itself, not just a subsidiary aspect of the judgment). Among the Court’s less important areas, the Court reversed one-third of defense wins in property cases, but all of the government wins. In cases involving the elements of violent crimes, the Court reversed 33.33% of defense wins and forty percent of government wins. The Court reversed all of the defense wins involving drug crimes and the pardon power. The Court reversed all of the defense wins involving vehicle crimes, and half of the government wins.
Join us back here next Tuesday as we begin our review of the docket in the years 2010 through 2015.