One often hears that in order to successfully petition for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, a dissenter at the Appellate Court is crucial. But is it true? Today, we’re reviewing the Court’s civil docket. In order to look at the data across the entire thirty years, we calculate the percentage of civil cases each year where there was a dissenter below.
Between 1990 and 1999, only about one in every four civil cases which the Supreme Court decided had had a dissenter at the Appellate Court. The numbers were relatively close from 1990 to 1996: 23.6% (1990), 28.3% (1991), 22.83% (1992), 21.05% (1993), 28% (1994), 26.79% (1995) and 21.82% (1996). Only 9.52% of the civil cases decided in 1997 had a dissenter below. The number rose a bit to 15.49% in 1998 and even further in 1999, to 36.59%.
In 2000, 21.05% of civil cases had a dissenter below. The number dropped in 2001 to only 7.84% before rising to 28% in 2002 and 36.96% in 2003. In 2004, 18.52% of civil cases had a dissenter below. In 2005, it was 22.92%, and in 2006, it was 24.49%. In 2007, 36.59% of civil cases had a dissenter below. The number fell a bit in 2008, to 30.95%, and a bit more in 2009, to 24.39%.
In 2010, 36.36% of civil cases had a dissenter below. The following year, it fell to 26.32%. In 2012, 30% of civil cases had a dissenter below. In 2013, 29.41% of civil cases had a dissenter. In 2014, the share fell to only 14.81% before rising to 34.09% in 2015, falling to 17.86% in 2016 and rising back to 38.46% in 2017. In 2018, 22.73% of civil cases had a dissenter below. So far in 2019, 18.18% of civil cases have had a dissenter below.
In Table 1356, we review the entire thirty years on a single graph. We see here that although the percentage of cases with dissenters is seldom stable from one year to the next, at least since the mid-1990s, the numbers are clustered around a consistent mean of between 25% and 30%. So the conclusion is clear: although a dissenter at the Appellate Court might help a petition for leave to appeal to stand out at the Appellate Court, the Court regularly decides roughly three civil cases which were unanimous decisions at the Appellate Court for every one which had a dissenter below.
Join us back here tomorrow as we review the share of civil cases which were published below.