California Supreme Court Review

Understanding Appellate Decision Making

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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…
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…
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…
Last week, we reviewed the year-by-year data on the length of the Court’s opinions in civil cases – majorities, concurrences and dissents.  We were looking at two questions: first, are opinions getting longer (or shorter) over time, and second, is there a relationship between longer dissents and longer majorities?  This week, we’re looking at the criminal docket, beginning today with the years 1990 to 2003. Because this dataset includes all the Court’s criminal cases, including…
Yesterday, we reviewed the average length of the Court’s opinions – majorities, concurrences and dissents – for the years 1990 through 2003.  Today, we’re bringing the numbers up to the present day. We noted yesterday that majority opinions seemed to have gotten slightly longer on average for the years 1990 through 2003.  For the years 2004 through 2017, majorities held steady at around the level they found in the second half of the earlier period. …
This week, we’re turning our attention to a new subject – how has the average length of the Court’s majority, concurring and dissenting opinions in civil cases changed between 1990 and 2017?  In studying the numbers, we’re looking for evidence on two points: are opinions getting consistently longer or shorter, whether because of the evolution of the docket, changes in judicial style or changes in the members of the Court, and whether longer dissents (or…
Yesterday, we reviewed average votes to affirm in criminal cases for the First District’s Divisions and the first five Divisions of the Second District.  Today, we’re reviewing the data for the rest of the state. Division Six of the Second District had a votes to affirm of four or more in only three years (1998, 2010 and 2012).  Votes to affirm was between three and four votes in another three years (2000, 2004 and 2007). …
Last week, we delved more deeply into how each District and Division of the Court of Appeal has fared before the Supreme Court, reviewing the yearly average votes to affirm each court’s decision in civil cases.  This week, we’re reviewing the numbers for criminal cases from 1990 to 2017. Division One of the First District had a votes to affirm rate of four or more in nine years (1996-1997, 1999-2000, 2005, 2007-2008, 2014 and 2017). …