For the past several weeks, we’ve been refining simple reversal rates as a measure of an Appellate Court’s standing by analyzing, District by District (and Division by Division), the average votes to affirm the Appellate Court. By doing so, we distinguish between decisions which are narrowly reversed by a sharply divided court, and those which are reversed with little or no dissent. Today, we gather up our year-by-year work to look at some overall conclusions for the civil docket.
Division Five of the First District performed best for the entire period of 2000-2015 in non-unanimous Supreme Court decisions, averaging 4.08 votes to affirm. The Workers Compensation Division of the Second District was right behind, averaging four votes to affirm in non-unanimous decisions. Nine different courts averaged between three and four votes in non-unanimous decisions. Division Three of the First District averaged 3.67 votes, followed by Division One at 3.5, the Fourth District at 3.36 votes and Division Four of the First District at 3.33 votes. Decisions from the First District which we were unable to attribute to a Division averaged 3.25 votes to affirm in non-unanimous decisions. The Second District was right behind, averaging 3.24 votes. Three courts – Division Six of the First District and the Workers Compensation Divisions of the First and Fifth Districts, averaged three votes to affirm. Direct appeals averaged only 2.79 votes to affirm and Division Two of the First District was at 2.77 votes. The lowest averages among courts which had a significant number of cases in the sample were the Third District, which averaged only 2.4 votes to affirm, and the Fifth, which averaged 2.29.
Not surprisingly, average votes to affirm among unanimous decisions of the Supreme Court were for the most part lower than among non-unanimous decisions. The Workers Compensation Division of the First District led, averaging 5.86 votes to affirm among a very small sample. Unattributed decisions from the First District averaged 4.86 votes. Only three courts averaged between three and four votes: the Third District (3.95), the Fourth (3.58) and Division Four of the First District (3.39). Five courts averaged between two and three votes – Division Three of the First District with 2.88 votes, Division One of the First District with 2.81, the Second District at 2.8, Division Five of the First District at 2.7 votes, and Division Six of the First District, which averaged 2.57 votes to affirm in unanimous decisions. Our three lowest finishers are Division Two of the First District, which averaged only 1.98 votes to affirm in unanimous decisions, direct appeals, which averaged 1.79, and finally, the Fifth District at 1.57 votes to affirm.
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In Table 335 below, we report the percentage of civil decisions from each District and Division which were unanimously reversed by the Supreme Court. Not surprisingly given the data discussed above, the Fifth District led among courts with a substantial number of cases, with 56.79% of its civil decisions unanimously reversed. Division Six of the First District was next, with 55% of its cases unanimously reversed. Direct appeals ranked third, with 52.08% unanimous reversals. Only two courts averaged in the forties – Division Three of the First District (44.23%) and the Second District (43.75%). Five additional courts averaged around a third of their civil decisions being unanimously reversed: Divisions Five, One, Two and Four of the First District (37.5%, 35.71%, 35.71% and 34.88%, respectively), and the Third District at 30.36%. The Fourth District fared quite well over the entire period, averaging only 29.07% of its civil decisions being unanimously reversed, and unattributed decisions from the First District were even lower, at 18.18%.
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Join us back here tomorrow, as we review our overall conclusions from the criminal docket for the years 2000-2015.