Illinois Supreme Court Review

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Last week, we began our review of a new question: is the conventional wisdom which posits that the Supreme Court only reviews final judgments (making a petition for review under any other circumstances a waste of time and money) really true?  This week, we’re reviewing the data for the years 2000 through 2009. As shown in Table 1787, the percentage of the Court’s civil cases which arose from final judgments was relatively stable, edging slightly up during the decade.  In 2000, 65.79% of the Court’s civil cases were final judgments.  That fell to 58.82% in 2001 and (after a one-year…
This time, we’re reviewing the data on final judgments in criminal cases for the years 2000 through 2009.  First, we calculate the percentage of non-death criminal cases that arose from final judgments of conviction.  Then, we add the share of the overall docket accounted for by death penalty appeals before the state of Illinois finally abolished the death penalty in 2011. As shown in Table 1788, the percentage of criminal cases accounted for by final judgments and death penalty appeals during this period steadily increased between 2000 and 2009.  In 2000, only 22.09% of the non-death criminal cases were from…
We’ve all heard it any number of times: the appellate courts only review final judgments.  Even if you can figure out a theory to take a non-final judgment up, the appellate courts won’t decide it on the grounds that it isn’t necessary – let it percolate out, and maybe the case will settle, or the case may moot out another way.  But is it really true? For the next three weeks, we’re reviewing the share of appeals accounted for by final judgments – first civil cases, one decade at a time, then criminal cases. From 1990 through 1992, the share…
This time, we’re reviewing the share of appeals accounted for by final judgments in the 1990s.  As a reminder, we’re defining “criminal” broadly to include quasi-criminal cases such as habeas corpus, as well as juvenile justice cases.  Until 2011 when Illinois abolished the death penalty, we also include direct appeals to the Supreme Court from death penalties in the trial courts. During this decade, the percentage of cases which were either final judgments from the Appellate Court or death penalty appeals was fairly stable.  In 1990, 60.87% of criminal appeals were either one or the other.  In 1991, it was…
For the past two weeks, we’ve been continuing our review of the data on dissents at the Appellate Court, asking whether a dissent below indicates that a reversal at the Supreme Court is more likely.  This time, we’re reviewing the data on civil cases for the years 2010 through 2020. Across the entire period, once again a dissent at the Appellate Court indicated that reversal was at least a bit more likely in civil cases: 65.98% of cases with a dissent below were reversed, while 56.71% of cases decided unanimously were reversed. Divided decisions were reversed at a higher rate…
So we’ve determined that a dissent at the Appellate Court is only a moderate indication that reversal is statistically more likely at the Supreme Court in civil cases.  So what about criminal cases? Between 2010 and 2020, 64% of criminal cases with a dissent below were reversed at the Supreme Court.  The reversal rate for unanimous criminal decisions was 53.33%. In all, the reversal rate for divided decisions was higher than for unanimous decisions in ten of the eleven years between 2010 and 2020.  Lopsided years were 2011 (66.67% for divided decisions, 47.22% for unanimous ones); 2013 (100% to 54.55%);…
Once again, a dissent at the Appellate Court was a strong indicator that the Supreme Court was more likely to reverse in criminal cases between 2000 and 2009.  For the ten year period, 68.69% of cases with a dissenter below were reversed by the Supreme Court, while only 46.36% of cases decided unanimously at the Appellate Court were reversed.  Divided decision reversals led unanimous decision reversals in eight of ten years.  The numbers were frequently lopsided: 2001 (80% reversal of divided criminal decisions, 41.51% unanimous decisions); 2002 (71.43% to 44.44%); 2003 (77.78% to 37.5%); 2004 (88.89% to 52.27%); 2007 (87.5%…
Just as was true in the 1990s, the presence of a dissenter at the Appellate Court was a mild-to-moderate indicator between 2000 and 2009 that a reversal was more likely in a civil case.  Across the ten years, 61.4% of cases with a dissenter at the Appellate Court were reversed by the Supreme Court, while 53.18% of cases decided unanimously below were reversed. As we can see in Table 1781, the two data points didn’t diverge much year by year either; although dissenter-below cases were more likely to be reversed in eight of ten years, the difference was minor ini…
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,…
A dissent below was a far stronger indicator of the likelihood of reversal at the Supreme Court in criminal cases between 1990 and 1999 than it was on the civil side.  For the entire period, 63.51% of cases with a dissent below ended in reversal at the Supreme Court.  Only 44.77% of cases decided unanimously below were reversed.  Dissent-below cases led no-dissent cases in seven of ten years: 1990 (66.67% dissent below reversed, 50% no dissent below reversed); 1991 (53.33% to 27.91%), 1992 (81.82% to 53.09%), 1995 (66.67% to 39.47%), 1997 (66.67% to 42.11%), 1998 (80% to 46.27%) and 1999…
In criminal cases between 2005 and 2020, dissents at the Appellate Court were more common than divided decisions in criminal cases in seven of sixteen years: 2005, 2008, 2010-2011, 2014-2015, 2018.  In 2007, 2016 and 2020, the percentages were identical.  In 2006, 28% of criminal cases had a dissent at the Supreme Court to 22% at the Appellate Court.  In 2009, 23.08% had a dissent at the Supreme Court to 11.54% at the Appellate Court.  In 2012, 30.3% had a dissent at the Supreme Court while 27.27% had a dissent below.  The following year, the margin increased – 26.32% at…
Last week, we reviewed the year-by-year data comparing the dissent rate at the Appellate Court to the percentage of divided civil decisions at the Supreme Court, investigating whether dissent below signals a higher likelihood of a divided decision.  This week, we’re looking at the data for the years 2005 through 2020, civil first. In eight of the sixteen years, the dissent rate at the Appellate Court was higher than the divided decision rate at the Supreme Court: 2005, 2007-2011, 2015 and 2017.  The rates were identical in 2020 – 21.875% dissent at the Appellate Court and divided decisions at the…
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…
We determined last time that there was relatively little connection between the rate of dissent at the Appellate Court and the likelihood of division at the Supreme Court in civil cases.  This time, we’re looking at criminal cases for the same years: 1990 through 2004. The connection between dissent at the Appellate Court and Supreme Court was even weaker in criminal cases.  The rate of dissent at the Appellate Court was higher than division at the Supreme Court in only three of the fifteen years between 1990 and 2004: 1990-1991 and 2004.  On the other hand, in 1993, only 2.33%…
This time, we’re finishing our review of the data for amicus briefs and won-loss records overall for the years 2005 through 2020. Appellants in insurance law cases won 58.82% of their cases to 41.18% for appellees.  Amici fared far worse – appellants’ amici won 20%, while appellees’ amici won only one-third.  In property law cases, appellants won 75% to 25% for appellees.  Appellants’ amici won all their cases; there were no appellees’ amici. Appellants won 80% of cases involving secured transactions.  Appellants’ amici won only one-third of their cases, while appellees’ amici won all of their cases.  Appellants and appellees…
This week, we’re comparing the won-loss percentage for appellants’ and appellees’ amici by area of law to the won-loss overall for the years 2005 through 2020. Appellants in arbitration cases won 60% of their cases.  Appellants’ amici won all their cases, while respondents’ amici won none of theirs. Appellants in civil procedure cases won 63.1% of their cases to 36.9% for appellees.  Appellants’ amici won 76.19% of their cases, while appellees’ amici won only one-third.  In commercial law cases, appellants won 70% to 30% for appellees.  Appellants’ amici won all their cases.  There were no appellees’ amici in commercial law…