Today, we reach a critical milestone in civil litigation at the Supreme Court: the average lag time from the last brief – regardless of whether it’s a party reply brief, an amicus brief or a supplemental brief – to the oral argument.  Because of California’s rule that cases must be decided within ninety days following submission, this lag time is a proxy for the period in which the Court is working up and deciding the case.

We report the data for 1990 to 1999 in Table 1146.  In 1990, the average lag from briefing to oral argument was 228.56 days.  That fell to 202.25 in 1991 and 203.71 in 1992.  In 1993, the average was down to 136.54 days.  In 1994, it was 137.22 days.  From there, the number started edging up again: 151.95 days (1995), 170.45 days (1996), 146.22 days (1997), 185.59 days (1998) and 236.37 days (1999).

For 2000, the average lag time was 235.18 days.  The average fell for three years – 206.48 days in 2001, 200.29 days in 2002 and 183.98 days in 2003 – but then increased again, to 246.94 days in 2004, 268.24 days in 2005, 297.4 days in 2006, 232.13 days in 2007, 279.68 days in 2008 and 276.93 days in 2009.

Although it has appeared at times in the past ten years that the average lag time might be increasing further, the data for 2018 and 2019 suggests that the trend might be reversing itself.  In 2010, the average lag time was 235.93 days.  It fell to 185.03 in 2011 before rising to 241.23 in 2012 and 277.88 days in 2013.  The average lag fell to 211.43 days in 2014 before increasing sharply: 288.78 days (2015), 355.06 days (2016), 385.48 days (2017).  The average lag fell back to 233.48 days in 2018 – only two days from the 2010 average.  The average so far in 2019’s civil cases has been 244.34 days.

In Table 1149, we report all the data together.  Measured from one decade to the next, this shows the lag time from final brief to oral argument steadily increasing: from 1990 to 1999, the average was 179.84 days.  It rose to 242.73 days from 2000 to 2009 and 265.86 days from 2010 to 2019.  But the Court may be reversing the trend.  The average lag time from final brief to argument for 2018 was only five days longer than the average for 1990.

Join us back here next Thursday as we continue our review of the lag time data.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Becky Matsubara (no changes).