On his CA3Blog, Matthew Stiegler has this analysis of recently published Administrative Office of the Courts statistics that discuss the percentage of opinions issued by various Circuit Courts of Appeals that are designated for publication. That analysis reveals that the Third Circuit had the lowest percentage of published opinions in each of the last two years, based on the AO data.
In the most recent year, 92.3% of Third Circuit opinions were designated not for publication. The Third Circuit produced 177 signed opinions that were designated for publication in the most recent year. The Second Circuit, the nearest competitor to the Third Circuit, had 215 signed published opinions. Thus, as CA3Blog notes, the Third Circuit “isn’t just the lowest, it is the lowest by over 15%.”
There may be some reason to think, as CA3Blog suggests, that the number of relatively recent vacancies on the Third Circuit has contributed to the relative dearth of published opinions. The percentage of unpublished opinions has indeed risen in the last few years, from the high 80’s to the low 90’s.
The Third Circuit also has had a low percentage of appeals that are argued orally, as discussed here. More published opinions and more oral arguments would be better for litigants and would improve the public’s perception of the Third Circuit. All that is just one more reason why the vacancies should be filled sooner than later.