For the past two weeks, we’ve been continuing our study of the dissent rate at the Court of Appeal by comparing the rate of dissent in the Supreme Court’s cases at the Court of Appeal to the reversal rate at the Supreme Court. To put it another way: is a dissent below an indication that reversal is more likely at the Supreme Court? Below we review the data for civil cases between 2010 and 2020.
For the entire 11-year period, the answer to that question is clear: yes, reversal is significantly more likely if there is a dissent below. Overall, 74% of civil cases between 2010 and 2020 were reversed by the Supreme Court, while 56.09% of unanimous decisions were reversed. Divided decisions were reversed at a higher rate in ten of the eleven years (all except 2010). The numbers were particularly lopsided in 2011 (100% reversal of divided decisions, 66.67% of unanimous ones); 2014 (66.67% to 45%); 2015 (100% to 70.97%); 2017 (75% to 50%); 2018 (75% to 41.38%), and 2020 (100% to 62.96%).
Across the entire thirty-one years from 1990 to 2020, 69.06% of civil decisions with a dissenter below were reversed at the Supreme Court, while 58.47% of cases decided unanimously were reversed.
Join us back here next time as we review the data for criminal cases in the same years.