Yesterday, we began our comparison of the Illinois and California Supreme Courts’ criminal dockets for the past twenty-eight years. We covered the years 1990 through 2003. Today, we’re looking at the years 2004 to 2017.
From 1990 to 2003, the Illinois Supreme Court wrote more criminal decisions than the California Supreme Court did. Since that time, the numbers have flipped. Between 2004 and 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court handed down 353 criminal decisions, while the California Supreme Court published 441.
In Table 622, we review the Illinois Supreme Court’s criminal cases from 2004 to 2010. With the death penalty docket almost entirely wound down, the leading issue on the Court’s criminal docket was criminal procedure (98 cases), followed by constitutional law (91), habeas corpus (48), sentencing law (28) and juvenile issues (23).
Between 2004 and 2010, the top issue on the California Supreme Court’s criminal docket was, as usual, death penalty appeals – 162 cases. Following that was criminal procedure (69), sentencing law (51), constitutional law (47) and habeas corpus (34).
In Illinois, criminal procedure was up sharply as a share of the docket, from 15.45% in 1997-2003 to 27.77% in 2004-2010. Constitutional law was essentially flat during these years, rising only from 24.68% of the docket to 25.78%. Habeas corpus was down significantly, falling from 19.96% of the docket to 13.6%. Sentencing law was down somewhat, from 8.58% to 7.93%. Juvenile issues were up slightly, from 5.79% of the docket to 6.52%. Among the less common areas of law, attorney disciplinary cases fell from 2.15% to 1.13%. Death penalty cases were down sharply, from 15.24% of the docket to only 4.53%. Sexual offenses were up from 1.93% to 3.97%. Mental health issues rose from 0.64% to 1.42%. Drug offenses doubled, from 0.64% to 1.42% of the docket.
Death penalty cases were sharply up as a share of the docket in California, from 24.2% of the docket from 1997 to 2003 to 36.73% from 2004 to 2010. Criminal procedure was down several points, from 21.54% to 15.65%. Sentencing law was fairly flat, from 12.77% to 11.56%. Constitutional law was down slightly too – from 11.97% of the docket in 1997-2003 to 10.66 from 2004-2010. Habeas corpus cases were up significantly, from 5.05% to 7.71%. Among the less common areas of law on the Court’s criminal docket, cases involving sexual offenses were down substantially, from 4.25% of the docket to 1.81%. Cases involving property crimes were down from 3.99% to 1.59%, as were attorney disciplinary cases – 2.66% to 0.68%.
Finally, we reach the years 2011 to 2017. Once again, the California Supreme Court was much more active in criminal cases – 368 in California to 252 in Illinois. The five most common issues on the Illinois Supreme Court’s criminal docket were the same, but with issues 3, 4 and 5 swapping places. The Court decided 66 criminal procedure cases, 62 constitutional law cases, 31 sentencing law cases, 24 cases involving juvenile issues, and 22 habeas corpus cases.
The caseload in California shifted somewhat. Death penalty appeals dominated, accounting for 144 cases for the seven years. Criminal procedure was next (54), then sentencing (46), constitutional law (31) and violent crimes (23).
Criminal procedure was down slightly in Illinois, from 27.77% of the docket in 2004-2010 to 26.19% for 2011-2017. Constitutional law was down a bit too, from 25.78% to 24.6%. Sentencing law was up significantly, from 7.93% in 2004-2010 to 12.3% for 2011-2017. Juvenile issues rose too, from 6.52% to 9.52%. Habeas cases were down, falling from 13.6% of the docket to 8.73%. Among the lesser players, death penalty appeals left the docket with statewide abolition from 4.53% for 2004-2010 to zero in the past seven years. Property crimes doubled, from 1.13% to 2.38%. Sexual offenses were up about fifty percent, from 3.97% to 5.56%.
Turning back to California, we find that death penalty appeals were only slightly up over the past seven years, from 36.73% of the docket in 2004-2010 to 39.13% in 2011-2017. Criminal procedure cases actually fell a bit, from 15.65% to 14.67%. Sentencing law was virtually flat, from 11.56% to 12.5%. Constitutional law was down a bit, from 10.66% to 8.42%. Among the less common areas of law, habeas corpus cases were down substantially, from 7.71% of the docket to 3.8%. Sexual offense cases rose from 1.81% to 3.8%. Political offenses and driving offenses were both up significantly, but both remained very small pieces of the Court’s docket (0.23% to 1.09% political offenses, 0.23% to 0.54% driving offenses.
Join us next Tuesday at the Illinois Supreme Court Review, and here on Thursday as we turn our attention to a new subject. And if you’d like to check out the three previous parts of our cross-over post, see below and at ISCR.