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 one of seven years. In 1990, affirmances averaged 27.65 pages and reversals averaged 24.06 pages. In 1991, affirmances were 31.95 pages. Reversals averaged 30.52. In 1992, there was almost no difference – reversals were 40.69 pages and affirmances were 40.66 pages. In 1993, affirmances averaged 42.52 pages and reversals were only 18.28 pages. In 1994, affirmances averaged 33.48 pages and reversals 20.75. In 1995, affirmances averaged 46.5 pages and reversals were 22.7. In 1996, affirmances averaged 43.36 pages. Reversals averaged only 32 pages.
Between 1997 and 2003, affirmances were always much longer than majority opinions reversing. IN 1997, affirmances averaged 58.67 pages and reversals only 20.96 pages. In 1998, affirmances were 49.32 pages and reversals were 29.59. In 1999, affirmances averaged 44.3 pages to 19.16 for reversals. In 2000, affirmances averaged 43.29 pages and reversals averaged 19.24 pages. IN 2001, affirmances were 38.46 pages to 17.72 for reversals. In 2002, affirmances were 40.8 pages and reversals were 26.38 pages. In 2003, affirmances averaged 39.76 pages. Reversals were 24.96 pages.
Join us back here tomorrow as we review the data for the years 2004 to 2018.