Last time, we took our first look at a new question: do majority opinions in civil cases tend to be longer when the Court reverses than when it affirms? The answer, for a substantial majority of years, was yes. So today and tomorrow, we’re looking at the flipside: are reversals longer in criminal cases too? The surprising answer is an emphatic “no.”
Between 1990 and 1996, reversals in criminal cases had longer majority opinions than affirmances only twice. In 1990, reversals averaged 26.82 pages, while affirmances were, on average, 24.72 pages. In 1991, affirmances were 26.76 pages, while reversals averaged only 18.29 pages. In 1992, affirmances averaged 30.34 pages, while reversals were 23.12 pages. In 1993, affirmances averaged 26.19 pages, while reversals averaged 17.63 pages. In 1994, reversals averaged 21.26 pages and affirmances averaged 20.84 pages. In 1995, affirmances averaged 25.51 pages. Reversals that year averaged 16.89 pages. In 1996, affirmances were 26.4 pages to 25.82 for reversals.
Between 1997 and 2003, reversals were longer than affirmances in only one of seven years. In 1997, affirmances averaged 16.18 pages to 16.17 pages for reversals. In 1998, affirmances were 19.91 pages. Reversals averaged 16.79 pages. In 1999, affirmances averaged 15.78 pages and reversals averaged 12.82 pages. In 2000, affirmances averaged 22.27 pages and reversals averaged 15.19 pages. In 2001, affirmances averaged 17.13 pages and reversals were 15.5. In 2002, reversals were 16.82 pages. Affirmances averaged 15.57 pages. In 2003, affirmances averaged 14.7 pages and reversals were 14.62 pages.
Join us back here tomorrow as we review the years 2004 to 2018.