Today and next week, we turn our attention to a new issue – does dissent at the Appellate Court signal likely dissent at the Supreme Court?  We begin with the Court’s civil decisions between 1990 and 2004.

For the most part, the answer is no.  The dissent rate at the Appellate Court in the civil cases decided by the Supreme Court only exceeded the likelihood of a dissent at the Supreme Court in four of the fifteen years between 1990 and 2004: 1990-1991, 1995 and 2003.

For most of the rest of these years, dissent was considerably more common at the Supreme Court than it was at the Appellate Court in the court’s cases.  In 1992, 32.6% of the Court’s civil cases had a dissent to 22.8% of those cases below.  In 1993, the margin was fifteen percentage points, and in 1994, that grew to seventeen points.  In 1996, once again the margin between dissents at the Supreme Court and dissents in the same cases at the Appellate Court was seventeen points.  The following year, only 9.5% of the Court’s civil cases had a dissenter below, but 50.79% of those same cases had at least one dissenter at the Supreme Court.  The margin was nearly as great in 1998 – 15.49% at the Appellate Court, 52.11% division at the Supreme Court.  In 2000, 42.1% of cases were divided at the Supreme Court, while only 21.1% drew a dissent below.  In 2001, 7.8% had a dissent below to 25.49% at the Supreme Court.

Join us back here next time as we review the data for the years 1990 to 2004 on the criminal side of the docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by David Wilson (no changes).