Illinois Supreme Court Review

Understanding Appellate Decision Making

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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 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…
Yesterday, we reviewed the Court’s year-by-year experience with the length of its opinions (majorities, special concurrences and dissents) in criminal cases for the years 1990 through 2003.  Today, we’re looking at the years 2004 through 2017. The average majority opinion declined in length after about 1996, and its downward drift continued during this period.  In 2004, the average majority opinion was 15.35 pages.  That rose to 19.96 pages by 2007, but has declined ever since. …
Last week, we began our study of the length of the Court’s opinions since 1990 with a look at the civil docket, looking at such questions as whether opinions are getting consistently longer or shorter, and whether longer dissents are related, all other things being equal, to longer majority opinions.  This week, we’re looking at the Court’s criminal docket, beginning with Part 1 today: the years 1990 through 2003. In Table 959, we report the…
In our last post, we addressed the yearly average length of the Court’s opinions in civil cases for the year 1990 through 2003.  Today, we’re looking at the years 2004 through 2017.  In doing so, we’re looking for evidence on two questions: first, are opinions getting shorter or longer over time; and second, do longer dissents tend to mean longer majority opinions? We report the yearly data for majorities, special concurrences and dissents in Table…
This week, we take up a new topic: how has the length of the Court’s opinions – majority opinions, special concurrences and dissents – evolved over the past twenty-eight years?  We’ll review the civil docket this week – today on the years 1990-2003 and tomorrow on 2004-2017 – and then turn to the criminal docket next week. In Table 955, we report three variables: the average length of majority opinions, special concurrences, and dissents.  Although…
Yesterday, we reviewed the average votes to affirm criminal cases from the First District at the Supreme Court between 1990 and 2017.  Today, we’re reviewing the numbers for the rest of the state. The Second District’s votes to affirm in criminal cases has been equally distributed.  For nine years, the votes to affirm was four or more (1991, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009-2010 and 2013-2014).  In seven more years, votes to affirm was between three…
Last week, we reviewed the data across the Districts and Divisions of the Appellate Court for yearly average votes to affirm the Appellate Court’s decisions in civil cases before the Supreme Court.  This week, we’re looking at votes to affirm in criminal cases. In Table 943, we report the data for Division One of the First District.  Votes to affirm have generally been relatively low.  The rate has been four or more in six years…