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 consistent relationship between length and result. On the other hand, one might speculate that a healthy collegiality and respect for the Court of Appeal might lead to the expectation that it should take a few more pages to reverse than to affirm.
We report the data in Table 735 – the average length of majority opinions in civil cases reversing (in blue) versus majorities affirming (in red). In five of seven years between 1990 and 1996, reversals averaged more pages. In 1990, reversals averaged 18.25 pages to 17.09 for civil affirmances. In 1991, reversals averaged 18.07 pages to 16.46 pages for affirmances. In 1992, reversals averaged 19.08 pages, while affirmances averaged 18.94 pages. In 1993, reversals averaged 17.94 pages to 15.54 pages for affirmances. In 1994, affirmances were longer – 23.69 pages to 22.89 for reversals. In 1995, the gap widened – 27.07 pages for affirmances versus 18.73 pages for reversals. In 1996, reversals averaged 28.65 pages, while affirmances averaged 28 pages.
Once again, between 1997 and 2003, reversals averaged longer opinions in five of seven years. In 1997, majority opinions reversing averaged 29.53 pages, while affirmances averaged 24.17 pages. In 1998, reversals averaged 28.12 pages to 23.89 for affirmances. In 1999, affirmances were 26.38 pages; reversals were 23.9 pages. In 2000, reversals averaged 26.89 pages to 20.4 for affirmances. In 2001, affirmances were 25.26 pages, but reversals were 23.65 pages. In 2002, reversals averaged 22.76 pages in civil cases to 17.74 pages for affirmances. In 2003, reversals averaged 24.03 pages. Affirmances averaged 18.92 pages.
Join us back here next time as we review the data for 2004 through 2018.