Circuit Court Appeals Are (Slightly) Down, While Reversals Are (Slightly) Up

An analysis issued yesterday by the Judiciary and Data Analysis Office of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts revealed some interesting information about and trends in federal appeals.  The total number of appeals dropped slightly in 2015, to 53,266, from 53,799 in 2014.  In the period beginning January 1, 2011, the total number of appeals fell almost 5%, with 2011 seeing 55,817 appeals and 2012, the high-water mark, having 57,335 appeals.  Though total appeals declined, bankruptcy appeals dramatically increased, by 22%.

Reversal rates have never been high, but the 2015 figures show a reversal rate of 8..6% of all appeals.  That percentage is nearly as high as the reversal rate in 2011 of 8.7%.  (That year, the Third Circuit had that very same reversal rate, as discussed here).  The 2012 reversal rate fell to 6.7%, and the rate crept up each year thereafter (2013- 6.8%; 2014- 7.3%; 2015- 8.6%).  The highest reversal rate in 2015 was in bankruptcy appeals, with nearly 25% of such appeals  resulting in reversals.  That was a major increase from the 2014 figure, which was just under 15%.  The reversal rate in private civil appeals in 2015 was nearly 15%, the highest figure in the 2011-15 time period, though the increase from 2014 was only a couple of percentage points.

The reversal percentages for most types of appeals fell from 2011 to 2012 and then remained nearly level or gradually drifted upward.  The bottom line, however, is that federal appeals have been and continue to be tough for appellants of any stripe to win.

Finally, the analysis shows that the median disposition time for federal appeals has dropped since 2011.  In that year, the median was 10.8 months.  The median disposition time fell slightly in each of the next three years, reaching a low of 8.4 months in 2014.  For 2015, however, the median crept up to 8.6 months.  These figures, of course, include all sorts of appeals, including prisoner appeals, which normally do not take long to resolve.