Are civil cases granted oral argument more frequently than criminal cases?

When I shared the data I collected on the percent of cases receiving oral argument at the Court of Appeals of North Carolina, some lawyers suggested that I look at the percent of cases receiving oral argument by type of case.  They believed that civil cases were granted oral argument more frequently than criminal cases.  They were correct!  

I categorized the appeals that appeared on the public calendar (the calendar posted on the Court of Appeals website) in 2015 and 2016 as civil or criminal.  Then I calculated what percentage of civil cases were granted oral argument and what percentage of criminal cases were granted oral argument.   

As the charts and tables show, in both 2015 and 2016 only 8% of criminal cases were granted oral argument.  By comparison, 18% of civil cases were granted oral argument in 2015 and 14% of civil cases were granted oral argument in 2016. The hunch seems to be correct: a civil case is more likely to be granted oral argument than a criminal case.

2015 Criminal v. Civil Oral Argument

% 30(f)’d
% Oral Argument
Criminal
92%
8%
Civil
82%
18%
Total
86%
14%


2016 Criminal v. Civil Oral Argument

% 30(f)’d
% Oral Argument
Criminal
92%
8%
Civil
86%
14%
Total
88%
12%

North Carolina Bar Association Appellate Practice CLE

Earlier this month, the Appellate Practice Section held its annual CLE. I was honored to speak at the event and share some of the data I have collected. I think the attendees of the event found the information I shared interesting. Here is a link to the paper that accompanied my presentation. It contains some information that I have previously discussed on this blog and some information that I have not. Enjoy!

2016 Supreme Court of North Carolina Dispositions

When a case is appealed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the court can enter several different dispositions.  The court may affirm, modify and affirm, reverse, or vacate the lower court’s ruling. The court may also choose not to consider the merits of the appeal by dismissing the appeal or determining that review was improvidently granted.  Finally, the court may discipline judges under Article 30 of Chapter 7A of the North Carolina General Statutes by issuing a public reprimand.

I placed these possible dispositions into six different categories: (1) affirmed – meaning the lower court’s ruling stands; (2) reversed – meaning the lower court’s ruling is no longer valid; (3) dismissed – meaning the court did not consider the merits of the appeal; (4) review improvidently granted – meaning that the court decided it incorrectly granted the petition for review; (5) mixed – meaning a combination of affirmed, reversed, dismissed, or review improvidently granted; (6) public reprimand – meaning the court admonished a judge’s conduct.

The court’s 2016 dispositions are shown in the pie chart below.



In 2016, 24 of the court’s 68 opinions were issued per curiam, meaning the opinion was issued by the court as a whole without identifying an author. The remaining 44 opinions identified an author.  This made me wonder if the dispositions for per curiam opinions vary from the dispositions in authored opinions.  It turns out they do.


For example, all appeals where the court determined that review was improvidently granted were issued per curiam.  In addition, a larger percentage of per curiam opinions affirm the lower court.  The pie charts below show dispositions for per curiam opinions and dispositions for authored opinions.



While appellants may not fare as well when the court issues per curiam opinions, they fair quite well overall, with 35% of opinions reversing the lower court and 13% of opinions resulting in a mixed disposition.   

Do dissents exist at the Supreme Court of North Carolina?

After last month's post on dissents at the Court of Appeals of North Carolina, I received a few questions about dissents at the Supreme Court of North Carolina.  Before addressing SCONC dissents, I think some context about the number of SCONC opinions is useful.


In 2016, the SCONC issued 68 written opinions: 44 (65%) identified an author and 24 (35%) were issued per curiam.  As a result, no single justice came close to authoring 24 opinions.  Justice Jackson authored eight opinions, which are the most by a justice and one-third of the number of per curiam opinions.  The below chart shows how many opinions each justice authored.


Of the authored opinions, nine garnered a dissent, meaning 20% of authored opinions were dissented from.  The below chart shows how many times a justice dissented and how many dissents a justice received.


As you can see, Justice Beasley dissented the most and Justice Edmunds received the most dissents.  It is also interesting that Justice Hudson was the only justice that did not receive a dissent and Justice Edmunds was the only justice that did not dissent at all.

The rate of dissenting opinions, however,  decreases to 15% when per curiam and authored opinions are considered together.  Interestingly, one per curiam opinion was the result of the court being divided 3-3, as shown in the below chart.  


While a majority of the SCONC’s opinions in 2016 were unanimous, dissents did occur with greater frequency than at the COA. (15% of SCONC opinions received a dissent while only 5% of COA opinions received a dissent in 2016.)