Saturday, May 17, 2008

The rest of the iceberg

If one examines CAAF's opinions of the court so far this term, one is left with a distinct impression of the term. Yet if one goes on to examine CAAF's summary disposition, that impression changes.

CAAF has issued 50 opinions of the court so far this term. In those 50 cases, the four Courts of Criminal Appeals enjoy a whopping 84% affirmance rate. The Coast Guard Court has a perfect record (4/4). 92% of CAAF's decisions reviewing AFCCA have been affirmances (12-1). 81% of CAAF's decisions reviewing NMCCA have been affirmances (17-3-1). And 75% of CAAF's decisions reviewing ACCA have been affirmances (9-3).

That affirmance rate seems high by historical standards. But then consider this: in 17 additional cases, CAAF has summarily reversed CCA decisions, including 13 reviewing NMCCA decisions. (3 were from the Army and 1 was from the Air Force. None were from the Coast Guard Court, which maintains its perfect record.) Some of these were reversals of trailer cases, but in several instances, CAAF summarily kicked the case back to the CCA to review it again -- the kind of disposition that would likely have been reached only after full briefing and oral argument in previous terms.

So it looks like this might be what is happening: CAAF is summarily reversing more of the low-hanging fruit, which reduces the percentage of reversals in opinions of the court. Let's keep watching to test that hypothesis.


Anonymous said...

Isn't that more efficient?

Anonymous said...

Efficient and good judicial management.

In fact, sending cases back to CCAs for review of issues not previously raised there seems to make perfect sense - especially when CCAs are fact-finders and CAAF is not.