With the recent close of the Supreme Court’s term, it is appropriate to consider the Sixth Circuit’s track record at the Court this year. The Sixth Circuit has not fared well in recent years before the United States Supreme Court in terms of the rate at which the Supreme Court has reversed the Circuit. The ABA Journal reported last year that the Sixth Circuit had an 81.6 reversal rate by the Supreme Court for the last seven terms. Going into this term, the Volokh Conspiracy noted that the Sixth Circuit was on a 20-case losing streak. Of the 79 opinions issued by the Court in this term, just two cases originated from the Sixth Circuit.
In the first, Metrish v. Lancaster, we reported here that a unanimous Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit’s decision that the Michigan court violated due process when they took away a defendant’s diminished-capacity defense before his second trial.
In McQuiggin v. Perkins, reported here, the Supreme Court reviewed another habeas case from the Sixth Circuit concerning the actual innocence exception to the AEDPA. Although the Supreme Court vacated and remanded the Sixth Circuit’s decision, in many respects, it affirmed the ruling of the Sixth Circuit. Although McQuiggin wasn’t a clear “win” for the Sixth Circuit, it has been recognized as the end to the Sixth Circuit’s 20-case losing streak.
Of course, the fact that the Supreme Court only accepted two cases from the Sixth Circuit is equally notable, and illustrates how a handful of cases can skew the statistics. It makes it difficult to portray the Circuit as any type of “outlier” — because if that were the case, we would expect to see a much higher grant rate by the Supreme Court. It is also notable that both of the cases accepted were criminal cases, meaning that no commercial or civil cases were accepted over the past year. So there are certainly a number of ways to consider the data.