Last week, we addressed the frequently heard claim that seeking Supreme Court review of an unpublished decision from the Appellate Court is a hopeless task. This week, we’re addressing a similar claim – that the Supreme Court doesn’t review unanimous decisions. Below, we’ll address the data from civil cases, and in our next post, we’ll look at the criminal cases.
In Table 1689, we report the percentage of the Court’s civil decisions every year that had a dissent below. If the claim we’re analyzing is correct – that only divided decisions get reviewed – then the number should be somewhere close to 100%. But it isn’t – not even close.
From 1990 to 1996, the percentage of civil cases with dissenters below was between 20% and 30% – reaching a high of 28.3% in 1991 and 28% in 1994. There was a one year dip in divided cases in 1997, when only 9.52% of the civil docket had dissents below. In 1999, the share with dissents jumped to 36.59%, but in 2001, it was down to only 7.84%. From 2005 to 2013, the share of divided Appellate Court decisions bounced around every year between about one in four and one in three. In 2014, only 14.81% of civil cases decided by the Court had a dissenter below, and in 2016, only 17.86% did. In 2017, 38.46% of civil cases had a dissent below. In 2018, it was 22.73, and that number has fallen since: 2019, 20.59% and so far in 2020, 19.35%.
Join us back here next time as we review the numbers for the criminal docket.