Yesterday, we began the final segment of our analysis of the Court’s reversal rates by area of law and prevailing party below with a look at the criminal docket between 2010 and 2015. Today, we complete our analysis by addressing the Court’s reversal rates, divided by area of law and whether the defendant or the prosecution prevailed below.
The data is reported in Table 321 below. We see that in every area of the law the Court heard within the criminal docket (which for our purposes includes quasi-criminal, disciplinary and juvenile cases), the Court reversed defendant wins at a higher rate that prosecution wins – saving only mental health, where the reversal rate was 50% for each side, and the two cases the Court decided involving obstruction of justice issues, both of which were reversed. Taking the issues in order of their predominance on the docket, the Court reversed 81.82% of defense wins in criminal procedure, but only 26.67% of the prosecution wins. In constitutional law, the Court reversed 79.97% of decisions where the defense won below, but only 29.17% of prosecution wins. Things were slightly closer in sentencing law, as the Court reversed two thirds of cases where the defendant had prevailed below, but only 43.75% of the prosecution’s wins. Interestingly, the reversal rate was relatively low on both sides for cases involving habeas corpus issues – the Court reversed one third of the decisions where the defense had prevailed below, and 31.58% of prosecution wins. Cases involving juvenile issues were similar – the Court reversed in 37.5% of the cases where the defendant had prevailed below, and in one-third of the government’s wins. The Court reversed half of the cases it decided involving sexual crimes, and 42.86% of the cases where the prosecution had prevailed below.
Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn to yet another phase of our analysis of the Court’s reversal rates by Appellate Court district – the average votes to affirm.