Appellate

Last time, we showed that between 1990 and 1999, as majority opinions in civil cases got substantially shorter, unanimity became significantly more common.  What about the criminal docket?

The effect on the criminal side of the docket was even more noticeable.

In 1990, the average majority opinion in a criminal case was 25.97 pages.  By 1994, the average had decline to 21.05 pages.  The average increased a bit in the following two years, but then dropped sharply, to 16.17 in 1997, 16.54 in 1998 and only 14.45 in 1999.

During the decade, unanimous decisions became significantly more common.  In 1990,
Continue Reading Did Shorter Majorities Increase the Unanimity Rate in Criminal Cases (Part 1 – 1990-1999)?

At the outset of this series of posts, we noted that analytic research has shown a connection between the length of majority opinions and the unanimity rate.  So my next step, now that we’ve reviewed the caseload data from the Appellate Court, will be to compare the unanimity rate to the average length of majority opinions, decade by decade.

As we showed last time, the average length of majority opinions in civil cases in the 1990s was drifting downward – 18.68 pages in 190, 15.94 by 1995 and only 11.9 in 1999.

So did this have an impact on unanimity?
Continue Reading Did Shorter Majorities Increase the Unanimity Rate in Civil Cases (Part 1 – 1990-1999)?

Today, we’re looking at the data for the criminal docket at the Supreme Court during the 1990s – specifically (1) the total caseload; (2) the total number of pages of majority opinions written and (3) the average length of the Court’s majority opinions in criminal cases.

For the entire decade, the Court decided 611 cases.  The Court filed 13,238 pages of majority opinions.  This comes to an average length of 21.67 pages per majority opinion.

Caseloads on the criminal side were not following a consistent pattern in 1990s, as shown in the Table below.  There were 69 criminal cases in
Continue Reading Was the Supreme Court’s Criminal Caseload Declining in the 1990s?

This week, we’re turning our attention from the Appellate Court to the Supreme Court’s docket.

We’ll be reviewing three questions in order to analyze the impact of the slow decline in cases at the Appellate Court: (1) did the Supreme Court’s caseload decline? (2) Was the Supreme Court writing less in majority opinions? And (3) Were the Supreme Court’s majority opinions shorter?

I’m asked occasionally why we should care about the length of the Court’s opinions.  There are two reasons.  First, data analysts have demonstrated that the chances of a dissent increase as majority opinions get longer.  Thus, if the
Continue Reading Was the Supreme Court’s Civil Caseload Declining in the 1990s?

This week, we complete our review of the docket data from the Appellate Court, covering the years 2011 through 2021.
Below is the data for new civil filings at the Appellate Court.  Filings in the First District were comparatively stable from 2011 through 2015, declining by only 25 new filings overall (from 2134 to 2109).  But filings drifted downward in the years that followed: to 1867 in 2016, 1844 in 2017, 1644 in 2018 and 1637 in 2019.  But of course, the docket completely collapsed in 2020 as the pandemic set in, and the First District saw only 843 new
Continue Reading Reviewing Declining Dockets Part 5 – Civil, 2011-2021

We’re reviewing the data on declining dockets at the Appellate Court for the years 2011 through 2021 – today, the criminal docket.
Once again – just as with the civil docket – the First District saw the biggest drop from 2011 to 2021, with new criminal filings down 57.8%.  The Second District was next, dropping 48.9%.  After that was the Third District at 43.1%, the Fifth, 41% and with the smallest drop, the Fourth District at 37.1%.
The First District was fairly stable from 2011 at 1683 to 2016 at 1562.  But after that, the large fall-off struck quickly: 1320
Continue Reading Reviewing Declining Dockets Part 6 – Criminal, 2011-2021

This time, we’re reviewing the decline in Appellate Court criminal dockets between 2001 and 2010.
The sharpest decline was in the First District.  There were 2,176 new criminal notices of appeal filed in 2000.  Although that number rose to 2,334 in 2001, it nosedived to 1,772 in 2002 and stayed around that level for the remainder of the decade.
The data in other Districts changed much less.  There were 649 new criminal notices of appeal in the Second District in 2000.  By 2006, there were only two fewer.  In 2009, there were again 647 new notices of appeal and the
Continue Reading Reviewing Declining Dockets Part 4 – Criminal, 2001-2010

Last time we reviewed the data for civil dockets in the Districts of the Appellate Court for the years 1997 through 2000.  Today, we’re looking at the data for the years 2001 through 2010.
In 2000, the First District saw 2,109 new proceedings.  That number dipped towards the middle of the decade, bottoming out at 1,862 in 2007, but by 2010, filings at the First District were actually up – 2,187 new cases for 2010.
The Second District saw a steep drop in the middle of the decade too, from 839 in 2010 to 653 in 2007, before staging a
Continue Reading Reviewing Declining Dockets, Part 3 – Civil, 2001-2010

Today we’re beginning a series of posts examining the declining dockets at the Appellate Court and assessing the impact on the Supreme Court’s work.

Below, we report the District-by-District new filings numbers for civil cases, 1997-2000 (all data comes from the Illinois Courts Annual Report Statistical Summaries – we begin with 1997 because that’s as far back as the filings are posted.)

Of course, First District filings dwarf the rest of the state.  Filings were up about six percent from 1997 to 1998, but total filings consistently declined after that – 2,368 new cases in 1999 and 2,109 in 2000. 
Continue Reading Reviewing Declining Dockets, Civil Part 1 (1997-2000)

Last time, we showed that although civil dockets were down a bit between 1997 and 2000 in the First and Fifth Districts, declines elsewhere in the state were negligible.  This time, we look at the criminal dockets for the same period.

The pattern was relatively similar on the criminal docket.  Across the four years, new criminal filings at the First District declined about eleven per cent, from 2,436 in 1997 to 2,176 in 2000.  New filings in the Second District were actually up – from 566 in 1997 to 737 in 1998, 665 in 1999 and 649 in 2000.  Third
Continue Reading Reviewing Declining Dockets, Criminal Part 1 (1997-2000)

This time, we’re wrapping up our four-part post by reviewing the county-by-county data for the first third of the current decade: 2020-2022.
In the past three years, the Supreme Court has reviewed ten civil cases from the Second District.  In 2021, there were four cases from Lake County.  In 2020, there were one each from Winnebago, DuPage and McHenry counties.  This year so far, there has been one each from DuPage, McHenry and Kane counties.

Next time: the Third District.
Image courtesy of Flickr by discosour (no changes).
Continue Reading Where Do the Second District Civil Cases Reviewed by the Supreme Court Originate (Part 4 – 2020-2022)

This time, we’re reviewing the county-level data on the Third District civil cases reviewed by the Supreme Court between 2020 and 2022 (so far).
The Court decided no Third District civil cases in 2020.  In 2021, there were three cases from Will County and one each originating in Grundy, Putnam and Kankakee counties.  So far in 2022, the Court has decided one case from Will County, one from Grundy and one from Peoria County.

Next up: the Fourth District numbers.
Image courtesy of Flickr by Mobilus in Mobili (no changes).
Continue Reading Where Did the Third District Civil Cases Reviewed by the Supreme Court Originate (Part 4, 2020-2022)?

This time, we’re reviewing the civil cases from the Fourth District reviewed by the Supreme Court in the first third of this decade, from 2020 to 2022-to-date.
Spoiler alert: there weren’t many.  The Court reviewed one civil case from Adams County in 2020.  In 2021, the Court decided one case from McLean and one from Sangamon.  So far in 2022, the Court has decided one case from McLean County.
Image courtesy of Flickr by Matt Turner (no changes).
Continue Reading Where Did the Fourth District Civil Cases Reviewed by the Supreme Court Originate (Part 4 – 2020-2022)

This time, we’re wrapping up this multi-part post, reviewing the trial court data for the civil cases from the Fifth District between 2020 and 2022.
The Court has decided eleven cases since the beginning of 2020.  In 2020, there were two cases from Madison County and one each from Williamson, Effingham, Randolph and Franklin.  In 2021, there were two cases from St. Clair County and one each from Hamilton and Madison.  So far in 2022, the Court has only decided one case from St. Clair County.

Join us back here next time as we turn our attention to a new
Continue Reading Where Did the Fifth District Civil Cases Reviewed by the Supreme Court Originate (Part 4, 2020-2022)

This week, we’re concluding our series tracing the origin of the civil cases reviewed by the Supreme Court, District by District, since 1990.
First, we look at the population distribution for the counties that produced cases in the just-ended decade.  DuPage County is at 30.67%.  Lake County accounts for 23.49%.  Kane is 16.98%, McHenry is 10.2% and Winnebago County is 9.38%.  The remaining counties which produced cases – Kendall, Henry, Stephenson, Lee and Jo Daviess – were all much smaller than Winnebago.

The distribution of civil cases over the past decade has more-or-less followed this population distribution.  DuPage had cases
Continue Reading Where Do the Civil Cases Reviewed By the Supreme Court From the Second District Originate (Part 3 – 2010-2019)

This time, we’re looking at the Third District docket of Supreme Court cases.
Will County dominates the Third in population, with nearly four times the population of the next biggest county according to the 2020 census.  Will has 47.82%.  Peoria has 12.49% of the population among counties which produced cases.  Rock Island County was 9.93%, Tazewell was 9.02% and LaSalle County was 7.53%.  The remaining counties are all far smaller, with populations of 60,000 or less – Whiteside, Grundy, Knox, Warren, Marshall and Putnam.

Of course, Will and Peoria County accounted for most of the cases coming out of the
Continue Reading Where Do the Civil Cases Reviewed By the Supreme Court From the Third District Originate (Part 3 – 2010-2019)