In judicial circles, observers and participants have been interested in how quickly (or slowly) Supreme Court cases have been dispatched. This has been an issue in candidates’ campaigns for election to the Supreme Court, and I have heard lawyers complaining about cases languishing at the Supreme Court for a year or more.
Regarding that matter, I requested from the state Supreme Court “records showing the number of cases pending, the average number of days that cases have been pending, and the average number of days between assignment and disposition, for each Justice on the Alabama Supreme Court.” I also requested “copies of the Supreme Court’s Filing and Dispositions Reports for the past two years.”
While the results received from the request could benefit from a more robust post, rather than wait any longer I decided to post the data received in their entirety.
Using the data I unlodged, The Birmingham News wrote an article last month that may interest you, “Alabama Supreme Court releases data: Fewer cases, decisions take longer.” For what it’s worth, the article made mention of the Parlor’s effort:
The court had routinely kept track of caseloads and productivity for internal use. When a blogger recently asked the court for the data, the justices unanimously agreed to release the numbers, Cobb said.
You may see the original document here in .pdf form. Footnotes are at bottom.
I. Number of Certiorari petitions1 and original decisions2 pending3 by Justice as of February 1, 2008, and for the preceding four years:
II. Average number of days between assignment and decision for decisions released by Justice as of February 1, 2008, and for the preceding four years:
III. Number of decisions4 released by Justice per year as of February 1, 2008, and for the preceding four years:
IV. Filings6 and dispositions per year in the Supreme Court of Alabama as of February 1, 2008, and for the preceding four years:
V. Average number of days that cases in which a decision7 has been released were pending8 in this court as of February 1, 2008, and for the preceding four years:
1Petitions for certiorari to the Court of Civil Appeals and the court of Criminal Appeals (proceedings seeking further review by this Court after disposition in a trial cort and review by an intermediate appellate court).
2Original decisions consist of direct appeals (proceedings seeking review of a judgment of a trial court in this Court in civil cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $50,000 or te relief sought is equitable), petitions for extraordinary writs (proceedings seekig review of orders entered during the pendency of a proceeding in a tril court or appellate court), petitions for permission to appeal (proceedings seeking review of a question of law arising during the pendency of a proceeding in a trial court), granted writs in petitions for certiorari (proceedings after this Court has determined further review is warranted of a decision by an intermediate appellate court), and certified questions from federal courts (proceedings where a federal court has referred a question of Alabama law arising in a case before the federal court to this Court for resolution).
3When each Justice assumes office, he or she assumes responsibility for cases previously assigned to other members of the Court. The initial number of cases pending as of February 1, 2005, for Justices Smith, Bolin, and Parker consists primarily of such cases. The initial number of cases pending as of February 1, 2007, for Chief Justice Cobb and Justice Murdock consists primarily of such cases.
4These statistics do not reflect the following activities: (a) the Court often renders decisions on matters that are disposed of by a panel of the Court or the entire Court without assignment to a Justice; (b) a Justice may write a separate opinion in a case in which that Justice concurs specially, concurs in the ruesult, or dissents; and (c) all Justices have administrative responsibilities.
5In its normal operation, the Court sits in two panels, each of which is comoposed of the Chief Justice and four Justices in alternating seniority. Thus, many cases can be disposed of by the vote of five Justices without requiring the participation of the other four Justices. Because the Chief Justice is required to participate in the case disposition in both panels, and because she has significant additional administrative duties, the Court’s Internal Rule III.B.2. provides that she is assigned 1 of every 17 cases from each of the Court’s assignment rosters, rather than 1 of every 9 cases. The Chief Justice’s output for dispositions in the first year of her term is also skewed downward by the fact that, as a former Judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals, she was recused from most of the petitions for certiorari seeking review of the opinions of that court.
6On November 17, 2003, the Supreme Court of Alabama adopted the Alabama Appellate Mediation Rules, which govern the procedure for referring appeals to appellate mediators. Those rules became effective on January 1, 2004, and the program has been sucessful in both the Supreme Court and the Court of Civil Appeals, having a substantial imjpact upon the number of cases assigned for decision.
7These statistics refer to the initial release of a decision in a case. The certificate of judgment indicating final disposition of a case is not issued until 14 days later, unless an application for rehearing is filed. In such event, additional time is necessary to issue a ruling on the application for rehearing.
8The number of days pending in this Court includes the time necessary for preparation of the record on appeal and the filing of briefs. These events occur before the assignment of the case to a Justice for preparation and circulation of a proposed opinion. The number of days pending also includes the time expended while awaiting special concurrences or dissents of other Justices after a majority of the Court has concurred in the release of a proposed opinion.