This week, we’re looking at a new topic in our ongoing review of the Court’s work: which Districts of the Appellate Court contributed the Supreme Court’s civil docket since 1990.
Between 1990 and 1994, the civil docket was far from evenly distributed, either among the Districts of the Appellate Court, or among the Divisions of the First District in Chicago. The Court decided 132 civil cases from the First District in the first five years of our period. We were unable to definitively determine which Division produced thirteen civil cases. Among the remaining First District cases, Divisions 3 and 4 led, producing thirty and twenty-nine cases, respectively. The Court decided twenty-one civil cases from Division 2. District 5 accounted for sixteen cases and Division 1 produced fourteen. Division 6 accounted for nine cases.
Among the remaining Districts during thee five years, the Fifth District was the second most common source for the Court’s civil cases, producing 41 cases (a little more than one-third the number coming from Chicago’s First District). For those not from Illinois, the Fifth is the southernmost District in Illinois and probably the largest in terms of square mileage. The District contained 37 counties, and its most significant cities are probably Carbondale and Belleville. In terms of implications for the Court’s docket, the District is most well-known (or notorious, depending on who you ask) for the enormous number of asbestos cases that arise out of St. Clair and Madison counties, two small counties nestled in the western corner of the District right across from St. Louis, Missouri. As we’ll see in a few weeks, it’s also important for having a consistently much higher reversal rate at the Supreme Court than the other Districts.
The Second District is the northernmost District geographically, just across the border from Wisconsin. The Second includes thirteen counties, including the counties bordering the western top half of the First District. It’s a historic area of the state – Galena in Jo Daviess County was the home of U.S. Grant and eight other Civil War generals, Dixon was the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan and Freeport was the site of the second Lincoln-Douglas debate. Waukegan and Rockford are the county seats of Lake and Winnebago counties, respectively. The Second District accounted for 46 civil cases between 1990 and 1994.
The Fourth District is next, producing 39 civil cases from 1990 to 1994. The Fourth District encompasses 30 counties and is located directly north of the Fifth District. Its caseload includes a great many government and administrative law cases coming from the state capital of Springfield in Sangamon County.
Finally, we have the Third District, which produced 31 civil cases from 1990 to 1994. The Third consists of 21 counties and is located directly south of the Second and north of the Fourth, with part of its eastern border adjoining Chicago’s First District. The Third District is based in Ottawa.
The final two important sources for the Court’s civil cases were 33 direct appeals from the Circuit Court (typically appeals from rulings holding a state statute unconstitutional). Seven more cases were appeals to the Court’s original jurisdiction, and were generally petitions for writ of mandamus.
Between 1995 and 1999, the Court decided 117 civil cases from the First District – 27 not attributable to any Division, 21 each from Divisions 3 and 6, 15 from Division 1, 12 from Division 2, 10 from Division 4 and 7 from Division 5. 4 cases arrived from the Industrial Commission division of the First District. The Court decided 39 civil cases from the Second District, 37 from the Fifth District, 30 from the Fourth and 24 from the Third District. The Court decided 34 civil cases on direct appeal and one as a certified question from the Seventh Circuit.
During the years 2000 to 2004, both the Court’s overall civil docket and its civil case load from each of the Districts of the Appellate Court were down. The Court decided 93 cases from the First District: 17 from Divisions 1 and 3, 13 from Division 4, 12 from Divisions 2 and 5, 11 unattributed to a Division, 8 from Division 6 and 3 from the Industrial Commission Division of the First District. Total cases from the Second District were down three to 36. The Court decided 31 cases from the Fifth District, a decrease of six. The Court decided 28 cases from the Fourth District, only slightly down from 1995-1999, and 18 cases from the Second District (a decrease of six). The Court also decided 22 cases on direct appeal, four under its original jurisdiction, and four on certified question from the Seventh Circuit.
Join us back here later today as we examine the most recent period of the Court’s history.