WAITING FOR DECISIONS

Wisconsin Supreme Court justices have recently expressed concern over the rate at which cases have been decided this term and the often-lengthy period of time required for decisions to be issued.  With the Court’s term now concluded, the filing of the last batch of decisions over the next few weeks will shed more light on the scope of these problems.  In the meantime, a look at correlations between various factors during the Court’s previous 14 terms will provide some reference points from which to view the data for the current term later this summer.

Correlations—strong and weak

Data from the previous terms reveal a comparatively strong negative correlation between the number of decisions in a term and the number of days between oral arguments and the filing of decisions—that is, the larger the number of decisions, the fewer the number of days between oral argument and decision filing, while the smaller the number of decisions, the longer the wait.  The last seven years of the period under consideration have seen the Court issue 32% fewer decisions than it did during the first seven years, while, in line with this correlation, the number of days between argument and filing has usually been higher than in the earlier years.  (table and graphs)

The Court’s goal of 60 decisions in 2013-14 is similar to the annual number of decisions over the past five terms (except for 2012-13, when it plunged to 46).  Thus, if the correlation noted above holds for 2013-14, we can expect a lengthy average period between argument and filing.

One might also anticipate a strong correlation between the average number of concurring and dissenting opinions per decision and the number of days between argument and filing.  The larger the number of justices who write concurrences and dissents in a case, this reasoning holds, the longer it should take, on average, for a decision to be filed.  As it happens, such a correlation is evident, but it is a good deal weaker than the correlation noted above. (graph)   Clearly there is some relationship between the number of concurring and dissenting opinions on the one hand and the wait for a decision on the other, but this correlation has not been dramatic over the past 14 years.  It will be interesting to see if data for 2013-14 suggest a more robust relationship between these two factors.

Does unanimity matter in this regard?

It would appear plausible to hypothesize that the average number of days between argument and filing should decrease as the percentage of comparatively uncontentious (unanimous) decisions increases.  Yet the correlation here is very weak (graphs), suggesting that the percentage of split decisions has not been a pivotal factor in the growing number of days between argument and filing.

Past patterns will not continue indefinitely, of course, but without bearing them in mind, it will be impossible to ascertain in what ways, if any, the Court’s 2013-14 term has been remarkable.

STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER CASES, 2009/10–2012/13

The information presented in the following tables covers four terms of the Wisconsin Supreme Court (2009-10 through 2012-13) and focuses on the 42 cases in which the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office (SPD) presented oral arguments.  Table 1 identifies all of the cases in which the SPD presented oral arguments and indicates whether or not the outcome favored the SPD.  The second set of tables specifies how frequently each of the seven justices cast votes siding with the SPD.

Individual cases and outcomes
Votes by individual justices

PACE OF SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

Earlier this week the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article[1] describing an unusual measure adopted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Concerned about a looming backlog of cases, the justices voted 5-2 to limit the number of minutes during … [Continue reading]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 2012-2013

These tables are derived from information contained in 46 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions filed between September 1, 2012, and August 31, 2013.  The total of 46 decisions does not include decisions pertaining to matters arising from the Office of … [Continue reading]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 2011-2012

The following tables are derived from information contained in 60 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions filed between September 1, 2011, and August 31, 2012.  This total of 60 decisions does not include one per curiam decision (Wis. Prosperity Network v. … [Continue reading]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 2010-2011

The following tables are derived from information contained in 58 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions filed between September 1, 2010, and August 31, 2011. This total of 58 decisions does not include three per curiam decisions (Polsky v. Virnich; … [Continue reading]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 2009-2010

The following tables are derived from information contained in 58 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions filed between September 1, 2009, and August 31, 2010.  This total does not include rulings pertaining to recusal motions and matters arising from the … [Continue reading]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 2008-2009

The following tables are derived from information contained in 61 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions filed between September 1, 2008, and August 31, 2009.  This total does not include one per curiam decision (Polsky v. Virnich) that yielded a 3-3 … [Continue reading]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 2007-2008

The following tables are derived from information contained in 68 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions filed between September 1, 2007, and August 31, 2008.  This total of 68 decisions does not include (1) decisions arising from matters pertaining to … [Continue reading]

Wisconsin Supreme Court Statistics, 2006-2007

  The following tables are derived from information contained in 67 Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions filed between September 1, 2006, and August 31, 2007. This total of 67 decisions does not include (1) decisions arising from matters … [Continue reading]