Over the past several weeks, we’ve considered the District-by-District reversal rates at the Illinois Supreme Court in the civil and criminal dockets. We refined that measure by factoring in the PLAs which are denied review and considered a “true” reversal rate – the portion of cases which are brought to the Court in PLAs which wind up being heard and reversed. Today we add a new variable: the average votes to affirm, District by District (and in Chicago’s First District, Division by Division). This helps to further refine our analysis of how each District of the Appellate Court has fared before the Supreme Court, since one could argue that a District with a fifty percent reversal rate and an average of 2.5 votes to affirm is not faring as well as one with a sixty percent reversal rate but an average of 3.5 votes to affirm.
In Table 322, we report the data for the civil docket between 2000 and 2004, divided between non-unanimous decisions at the Supreme Court and unanimous ones. During these years, the Second and Third Divisions of the First District fared relatively well. For Division Two, there were 4.5 average votes to affirm in non-unanimous cases, 3.9 in unanimous ones. For Division Three, the average votes to affirm in non-unanimous cases was 4.4, and 3.42 in unanimous decisions. Divisions Four and Five were slightly behind that pace; Division Four garnered 3.33 votes to affirm in non-unanimous cases, 3.4 in unanimous ones, while Division Five had an average of 3.5 votes in non-unanimous cases and 4.5 in unanimous ones. Divisions One and Six had the lowest average support on the Court. The Court heard 17 civil cases from Division One during these years, and received an average of 2.83 votes to affirm in non-unanimous cases, and 1.91 in unanimous ones. All eight civil cases the Court heard from Division Six were unanimous decisions, and the Court averaged 2.38 votes to affirm District Six’s decisions. For cases where we were unable to identify the originating Division of the First District, there were an average of 3.25 votes to affirm in non-unanimous cases, and 4.86 in unanimous decisions.
The remaining Districts of the Appellate Court had roughly comparable records before the Court during these first five years. Of the thirty-six cases the Court decided from the Second District, the Second District had an average of 3 votes to affirm in non-unanimous decisions, 1.96 in unanimous ones. The Court heard thirty cases each from the Fourth and Fifth Districts on the civil docket. The Fourth averaged 3 votes to affirm in non-unanimous cases, 3.14 in unanimous ones. The Fifth District was slightly behind that pace, averaging 2.5 votes to affirm in non-unanimous cases, 2.77 in unanimous cases. The Court decided 18 civil cases from District Three, and the Third District averaged 2 votes to affirm in non-unanimous cases, 5.55 in unanimous ones.
Tomorrow, we’ll turn our attention to a related issue about the civil docket between 2000 and 2004: what percentage of each Court’s civil decisions reviewed by the Supreme Court were unanimously reversed – in other words, a votes to affirm number of zero?