Horvitz & Levy LLP

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For the past several weeks, we’ve been looking for insights into the Court’s decision-making processes by reviewing the data for the length of the Court’s opinions.  This week and next, we’re looking at a related question: which Justices tended to write the longest and shortest majority opinions.  This week, the civil side.  We’ll take the question in two steps: first, who wrote the most and fewest majorities year by year, so we can identify the…
We’ve established already that majority opinions in cases reversing the Court of Appeal are, on average, generally longer than majority opinions affirming.  Last time, we showed that for criminal cases between 1990 and 2003, the result was flipped – affirmances were nearly always longer.  Today, we’re reviewing the data for the years 2004 to 2018. In Table 741, we report the data for the years 2004 to 2010.  As you can see, affirmances were longer…
Last time, we asked whether majority opinions in civil cases, on average, tend to be longer when the Court reverses than when it affirms.  The answer was, in the vast majority of cases, yes.  Today and tomorrow, we’re asking the same question in criminal cases.  Surprisingly, the answer for criminal cases is the reverse – affirmances tend to be longer – usually by a wide margin. Between 1990 and 1996, reversals were longer in only…
Yesterday, we showed that in contrast to our result in civil cases, when majority opinions reversing tended most years to be longer than majority opinions affirming, the opposite was generally true in criminal cases – between 1990 and 2003, affirmances were longer.  Today, we’re looking at the years 2004 to 2018. In 2004, reversals were longer – 15.65 pages to 14.8.  In 2005, affirmances were narrowly longer, 17.13 to 17.12 pages.  In 2006, affirmances were…
Last time, we took our first look at a new question: do majority opinions in civil cases tend to be longer when the Court reverses than when it affirms?  The answer, for a substantial majority of years, was yes.  So today and tomorrow, we’re looking at the flipside: are reversals longer in criminal cases too?  The surprising answer is an emphatic “no.” Between 1990 and 1996, reversals in criminal cases had longer majority opinions than…
Last time, we compared the length of majority opinions at the Court in civil cases for reversals and affirmances between 1990 and 2003.  In this post, we’re looking at the years 2004 through 2018. Between 2004 and 2010, in five of seven years reversals averaged longer majority opinions than affirmances.  In 2004, reversals averaged 24.39 pages to 20.25 for affirmances.  In 2005, reversals averaged 24.62 pages and affirmances averaged 22.38 pages.  In 2006, reversals averaged…
Last time, we began looking at a new question: are majority opinions reversing the Appellate Court on average longer than majorities affirming the result below?  Between 1990 and 2003, the answer was, most of the time, yes.  This time, we’re looking at the data for civil cases between 2004 and 2018. In Table 965, we review the data for civil cases in the years 2004 through 2010.  In six of seven years, civil reversals were,…
I remember many years ago my first-year Criminal Law professor telling us that you can always tell within the first five pages how an appellate criminal law case involving violent crime will come out: if it reads like a slasher movie, the defendant has lost.  If you get well into the opinion and are wondering “but what did the defendant supposedly do” – then the defendant has won. For the past few weeks, we’ve been…
For the past few weeks, we’ve been tracking the Court’s history in terms of the length of their opinions – majority opinions, concurrences and dissents.  Today, we’re looking at a related question – is there a relationship between the length of the opinion and the result – are affirmances or reversals consistently longer?  One can imagine either result – if more or less complex facts or law drive the opinion, then there should be no…
Yesterday, we began our review of the year-to-year average length of the Court’s opinions in criminal cases – majority opinions, concurrences and dissents, beginning with the years 1990 to 2003.  Today, we’re looking at the years 2004 through 2017. Across the entire fourteen-year period, there is some evidence that majority opinions have edged a bit upwards in average length.  Although majority opinions averaged only 32.86 pages in 2004, they averaged 44.12 in 2005, 44.53 in…