Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fascinating statistic

I just came across a fascinating statistic in a 1980 Army Lawyer article by then-Chief Judge Everett. Chief Judge Robinson O. Everett, Some Comments on the Civilianization of Military Justice, Army Law., Sept. 1980, at 1, 3. He tells us that over the first 29 years of its operation, CMA reversed the lower court in 54% of its rulings, affirmed the lower court in 43% of its rulings and reached mixed results in the remaining 3% of its rulings. Of course, this doesn't necessarily equate to the percentage of cases in which CMA ruled for the accused, since the 54% reveral rate includes reversals of intermediate appellate court decisions that ruled on behalf of the accused (like today's Guiterrez decision, discussed here). Nevertheless, that statistic suggests that over the first three decades of CMA's operation, the accused prevailed at an extraordinarily high rate. Given CMA's mostly discretionary jurisdiction, this further suggests that a grant of review was more likely in a case in which the judges perceived a greater likelihood of reversal.

Is anyone familiar with a comparable figure for a more recent period?


gene fidell said...

According to the FY2005 Annual Report (the last one on the website), the Court of Appeals reversed in whole or in part in 51 out of 113 terminated cases on the master docket.

John O'Connor said...

I assume, with no personal knowledge, that "error correction" is a much more important factor when CAAF decides whether to take a case than it is when the Supreme Court decides a cert petition, so I would suspect that the reversal rates would be reasonably high.

If CAAF waited for "circuit splits" to take a case, it wouldn't have much to do, and there's no reason to take a case just to announce that the courts below have been getting it right.