For the next three weeks, we’ll be reviewing data closely related to our just-concluded look at dissents below and at the Supreme Court. This time, we’re asking a related question – is the Supreme Court more likely to reverse when there’s a dissent below? Or to put it another way – is there reason to believe that the Supreme Court hears cases with a dissent below because it agrees with the dissenter? We begin with civil cases for the years 1990 through 1999, comparing two data points: yearly percentage of cases with a dissent below which resulted in a reversal, and yearly percentage of cases decided unanimously below which resulted in a reversal.
For these years, although the effect isn’t dramatic, it’s definitely there – reversal is more likely if there’s a dissent below. In seven of the ten years from 1990 to 1999, the percentage of cases with a dissent below which resulted in reversal outpaced the no-dissent reversals. Overall for the period, cases with a dissent at the Appellate Court had a reversal at the Supreme Court in 64.83% of cases, while cases with no dissent below had a reversal in 56.24%. The data was especially lopsided in 1992 (66.67% dissent below, reversal above, 51.39% no dissent below, reversal above); 1993 (87.5% to 41.94%), 1995 (80% to 65.85%); 1996 (83.33% to 46.51%); 1997 (66.67% to 47.37%), and 1999 (66.67% to 50%).
Join us back here next time as we review the data for criminal cases in the same period.