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Recent Sixth Circuit Statistics on Reversal Rates and Timing

Posted in News and Analysis

Two of the most important issues for deciding when to appeal are often the chances of success and how long will it take to get a decision.  This post briefly addresses the newly released statistics for 2012.

Because it is an important part of the decision whether to appeal, we have often covered reversal rates in civil appeals at the Sixth Circuit.  Of 786 civil appeals decided on the merits in 2012, only 127 were reversed or remanded for a rate of about 16%—which was higher than any circuit except the D.C. Circuit.   But this number is only the beginning when assessing the chances for reversal (even apart from the merits of the appeal).  We have previously noted that reversal rates vary significantly by district, by judge, and by procedural posture.  Empirical scholarship has also shown that federal appellate courts are more likely to reverse after a jury trial than a summary judgment decision or a bench trial.

Turning to the timing of appeals, the average appeal currently takes 14.7 months in the Sixth Circuit.  This reflects positive improvement to the 15.5 months that we reported two years ago, but it’s still good for only second slowest ahead of the Ninth Circuit.  The federal courts of appeal have, overall reduced their time from 11.7 months in 2010 to 9.8 months.  But the good news for the future is that the Sixth Circuit has made significant progress against its backlog by deciding 600 more cases than were filed, reducing its overall docket load about 15%.  Another year like 2012 that and appeals will likely be moving significantly faster.