Appellate Division Statistics for the 2017-18 Term

The annual summary of Appellate Division statistics is out.  They cover the 2017-18 Term, which ended on August 31, 2018.  Once again, the figures have stayed remarkably consistent from year to year.

In civil cases decided by two-judge panels, 75% resulted in affirmances.  The affirmance rate for three-judge civil cases was slightly lower, at 69%.  There were 1,087 two-judge civil opinions and 518 three-judge civil rulings hat produced affirmances.

On the criminal side, there were 1,126 two-judge opinions and 129 three-judge decisions where lower court rulings were affirmed.  88% of two-judge opinions resulted in affirmances, while 66% of three-judge decisions affirmed rulings below.

Reversal rates were as follows.  In two-judge civil cases, 14%, or 206 opinions, resulted in reversals.  Three-judge civil opinions produced reversals 17% of the time, in a total of 128 cases.  The totals of affirmances and reversals do not add up to 100% because a small number of cases (2% of two-judge rulings in both civil and criminal cases and 5% of three-judge opinions in both types of appeals) were affirmed in part and reversed in part, and still others were dismissed or otherwise treated.

There is a noticeable disparity in affirmance and reversal rates in argued versus submitted cases.  68% of argued cases resulted in affirmances, while 19% produced reversals.  Submitted cases had an 83% affirmance rate, with only 9% ending in reversals.  (Again, the balance in both categories were of the other types described in the preceding paragraph).  This does not necessarily mean that requesting oral argument produces a better chance for reversal.  Parties may be more likely to waive oral argument in cases that they believe will be affirmed, so affirmance rates in submitted cases are therefore higher.  If there were more oral arguments in cases that, by their nature, are unlikely to be reversed, the affirmance rate for argued cases would rise.

The Appellate Division reported that 750 motions for leave to appeal, of all types, were filed, of which 198 (24%) were granted.  As in the past, the grant rate for motions for leave to appeal in criminal cases was higher, at 42%, than the rate for such motions in civil cases, which was only 16%.  A higher percentage of motions for leave to appeal on the criminal side involve issues that could be case-dispositive, which are the best candidates for leave to appeal.

Finally, the Appellate Division continues to keep up with its heavy workload.  There were 6,134 appeals added to the Court’s docket in the past Term.  But the judges disposed of 6,542 appeals.  On motions, too, the Appellate Division kept its head above water.  There were 9,780 motions of all types filed, including 6,505 civil motions and 3,275 criminal motions.  The Appellate Division decided a total of 9,796 motions, just slightly more than the number filed.  That figure represented a nice round number of 6,600 civil motions and 3,196 criminal motions.