As a former member of the Alabama Supreme Court, and as a current appellate practitioner, I am frequently asked how long it takes the Court to resolve its cases. Available statistics provide some general answers.
For the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, matters requiring an original decision by the Supreme Court remained pending for an average of 290 days. This represented a substantial decrease from the preceding year's average of 350 days. From 2011 through 2015, the average pendency of cases originating in the Supreme Court was 309 days.
Various factors can affect the length of time it takes to resolve an appeal. Some of these factors are beyond the Court's direct control – for example, the time necessary for the preparation of the record on appeal, including any reporter's transcript, and any allowable extensions for the filing of briefs. However, the most important variable seems to be the Justice to whom the case is assigned.
Once the record has been completed and the briefs have been filed, a case is assigned to a Justice. It is that Justice's responsibility to prepare and circulate a proposed disposition of the case. For the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the average number of days between the assignment of cases and the release of decisions was 132 days. This was substantially below the five-year average of 152 days. Significantly, the lowest average for a Justice was 69 days, while the highest average for a Justice was 289 days.
In short, it is impossible to predict when the Supreme Court will decide a particular matter. The parties do not know the identity of the Justice to whom the case has been assigned until the Court issues its decision. While averages are helpful, many cases will be decided much earlier, and others will remain pending much longer.