How many cases were orally argued in 2016?

Now that we have started a new year, I can share the oral argument statistics for 2016, and compare them with the statistics from 2015.


Total
30(f)
Orally Argued
% 30(f)
% Orally Argued
2015
1021
882
139
86%
14%
2016
855
756
99
88%
12%

First, only 855 cases appeared on a published calendar in 2016.  That is a 16% decrease in the number of cases on a published calendar from 2015 to 2016.  That seems large, so I collected the data from 2014, and found that 1,010 cases appeared on a published calendar.  This means between 2014 and 2015 the number of cases that appeared on a published calendar remained fairly constant. It will be interesting to see if 1,000 cases will appear on the published calendars in 2017 or if it will remain around 850 cases.

Second, there was a 2% decrease in orally argued cases and a 2% increase in cases not orally argued between 2015 and 2016. This difference is not statistically significant, meaning that I am 95% confident that the decrease in orally argued cases and the increase in cases not orally argued happened by chance.  In other words, the COA is not intentionally scheduling fewer cases for oral argument. 

Finally, I thought it would be interesting to see how the number of orally argued cases in 2014 and 2015 compared because Chief Judge Martin retired in August of 2014.  In 2014, 9.5% of cases were orally argued compared with 14% in 2015.  This difference is statistically significant, meaning that I am 95% sure that the increase in orally argued cases in 2015 did not happen by chance.  While it is impossible to show causation with this data, this one data point suggests that under Chief Judge McGee the COA may be more willing to hear oral argument than it was under Chief Judge Martin. 



Total
30(f)
Orally Argued
% 30(f)
% Orally Argued
2014
1010
914
96
90.5%
9.5%

What is the COA’s reversal rate?

A case before the COA can have several outcomes. I divided these outcomes into four categories: (1) Affirmed – meaning the lower court’s ruling stands; (2) Reversed – meaning the lower court’s order is no longer valid; (3) Mixed – meaning part of the lower court’s order was affirmed and part was reversed; and (4) Dismissed – meaning the COA did not consider the merits of the appeal.

I categorized all of the COA’s 1019 opinions issued in 2015. Of these opinions, 663 were affirmed, 163 were reversed, 128 were mixed, and 65 were dismissed. The percentage breaks down as follows:

2015 COA Outcomes
% Affirmed
% Reversed
% Mixed
% Dismissed
65%
16%
13%
6%

While this is interesting, I decided to break the results down further by type of case to see if my perception that criminal cases are rarely reversed is based in reality.

2015 COA Outcomes


Opinions

Affirmed

Reversed

Mixed
% Dismissed
Civil
400
57%
19%
14%
10%
Criminal
467
70%
13%
12%
5%
Juvenile
141
72%
16%
10%
1%
Juvenile-Criminal
11
73%
0%
18%
9%


It looks like criminal cases are reversed less frequently than civil cases.

Is oral argument associated with published opinions?

A case at the COA can be on one of three calendars:
1.     The published calendar;
2.     The fast-track calendar; or
3.     The juvenile-3.1 calendar.
In addition, it is possible that a case does not appear on any calendar if it is remanded or a petition for rehearing is granted.  While the published calendar is available to the public on the COA’s website, the fast-track and juvenile-3.1 calendars are sent to only the parties that appear on the calendar.  Finally, it is my understanding that unless a case is scheduled for oral argument on the published calendar, it is ruled on without oral argument pursuant to Rule 30(f).  Thus, there is some guess work involved in the information I am sharing below.


In 2015, the COA issued 1019 opinions.  I separated these opinions based on the type of calendar the case appeared on and then separated the orally argued cases from the other cases on the published calendar.  I then determined how many cases in each category were published as shown in the table below.


Published
Unpublished
Oral Argument
78
13
Published
227
437
Juvenile 3.1
29
101
Fast Track
0
126
None
4
4



I then calculated what percentage of cases in each category obtained a published opinion as shown in the table below.



Published Opinion
Unpublished Opinion
Oral Argument
86%
14%
Published
34%
66%
Juvenile 3.1
22%
78%
Fast Track
0 %
100%
None
50%
50%


As you can see, having oral argument is more strongly associated with published opinions than any other category.