We have previously reported that the time the Sixth Circuit takes to decide appeals has declined significantly in recent years from 15.5 months in 2011 to 10.6 months in 2013. The latest official data shows that number to be at just 9.1 months in 2014, which is certainly good news for our clients. For this post we looked at whether the Sixth Circuit takes longer to issue opinions after oral argument that reverse the district court than decisions that affirm.
Reviewing cases decided this year, we found that the average time between oral argument and decision is generally longer for decisions that reversed the district court. Affirmances in civil cases took about 3.7 months from oral argument to decision, while reversals were almost a month longer, at 4.5 months. The effect was almost non-existent for criminal cases. Affirmances in criminal appeals took an average of 4.0 months after oral argument, while reversals took 4.1 months. It makes sense, of course, that it would take a little longer to write an opinion disagreeing with and reversing a district court’s opinion rather than a simple affirmance. In both cases, however, the difference was smaller than we expected.
But what was most surprising was that civil and criminal cases took about the same amount of time on average to decide after oral argument—4.1 months in civil appeals and 4.0 months in criminal appeals. This runs contrary to the common wisdom that courts of appeal often fast-track criminal appeals while civil appeals languish. But the continuing good news for all litigants is that the circuit continues to reduce the time it takes to decide appeals.