After reading this shout-out to our ongoing series of posts, both here and at the California Supreme Court Review, tracing how the courts’ civil and criminal dockets have evolved over time, I thought it was time for another cross-over series, both here and at CSCR.
So, today and tomorrow, we’re looking at the two courts’ civil dockets: (1) year by year totals for each area of law, both for the Illinois and California Supreme Courts (since both databases cover twenty-eight years’ worth of cases, we address the numbers seven years at a time); and (2) each Court’s total distribution of cases for each seven year period, calculated as a percentage of the entire docket in order to account for the courts’ uneven workload.
Between 1990 and 1995, the Illinois Supreme Court decided far more civil cases than the California Supreme Court did – 452 in Illinois to only 313 for California. The biggest single areas of law were tort cases (127); civil procedure (91); constitutional law (56); government and administrative law (43); and insurance law (27).
In Table 875, we address the civil cases for the same period from California. Government and administrative law were the most common entry on the civil docket with sixty cases. There were fifty-three tort cases, forty-five constitutional law cases, thirty-four civil procedure cases, twenty-two insurance cases and nineteen domestic relations cases.
In our next Table, we calculate the share of cases for each subject for the entire 1990-1996 period as a percentage of the total – by comparing spans of years rather than one year at a time, we minimize the impact of random fluctuations. In Illinois, tort cases were 28.1% of the Court’s civil output. Civil procedure cases accounted for 20.13%, constitutional law was 12.39%, government and administrative law was only 9.51%, and insurance law accounted for only 5.97% of the civil cases.
In Table 877, we review the California Supreme Court’s totals for the same period. Government and administrative law accounted for 19.17% of the civil docket – more than double the share in Illinois. Tort law accounted for 16.93% – significantly less than in Illinois. Constitutional law cases accounted for 14.38% of the docket, almost equal to the Illinois total. Civil procedure accounted for 10.86%, and was only half as common on the California docket as it was in Illinois. Insurance was 7.02% of the California docket, roughly equal to Illinois. Domestic relations accounted for 6.07% of the civil docket in California, about half again the share in Illinois.
Now we turn our attention to the next seven years – 1997-2003. For this period, Illinois’ substantial lead over California in total cases had nearly vanished: Illinois handed down 354 civil decisions, while California had 342. With the exception of issues three and four swapping places (by a margin of only one case), the top five finishers on the civil docket were exactly the same as the previous period – tort (92), civil procedure (54), government and administrative law (45), constitutional law (44) and insurance law (27).
California’s civil docket evolved during this second seven years, with nearly every position in the list of most frequently heard areas of law changing hands. Tort law was most common (76), then civil procedure (56), constitutional law (45), government and administrative law (39) and employment law (27). Insurance law fell to sixth, with twenty-five cases.
With this second seven years, we add one more measurement to the chart – the distribution of cases both for the current seven years and the previous seven (to facilitate comparison not only to the other state’s court, but also to the court’s own trends over time). Tort law accounted for 25.99% of the docket for 1997-2003, a somewhat larger share than the preceding seven years. Civil procedure cases were 15.25% of the docket, and about one quarter down from its earlier share. Government cases increased their share from 9.51% in 1990-1996 to 12.71% for the seven years that followed. Constitutional law was almost exactly the same share of the docket for 1997-2003 (12.43%) and 1990-1996 (12.39%). Insurance law, on the other hand, accounted for more of the docket – 5.97% for 1990-1996 to 7.63% for 1997-2003.
Finally, we review the distribution of California’s docket for these years. Tort law expanded its share of the docket from 16.93% in 1990-1996 to 22.22% for 1997-2003, only a few points less than the share in Illinois. Civil procedure was also significantly more common, increasing to 16.37% of the docket in 1997-2003 (almost exactly the share in Illinois). Constitutional law was slightly less of a factor in 1997-2003, falling just over a point to 13.16% of the cases, less than a point over its share in Illinois. Government and administrative law cases fell significantly, from 19.17% of the docket in 1990-1996 to 11.4% for 1997-2003, bringing it more in line with the share of the docket in Illinois. Employment law became more important too, increasing from 4.47% in 1990-1996 to 7.89% for 1997-2003. Both of these numbers are significantly higher than the shares in Illinois.
Tomorrow, we’ll be back at this blog, comparing the two courts for the periods 2004-2010 and 2011-2017. Then, on Thursday and Friday, we’ll finish up the series with a similar two-parter over at the California Supreme Court Review, looking at the courts’ criminal law dockets for the same periods.