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By the Numbers: Supreme Court Reversal and the Ninth Circuit

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Supreme Court granted writs of certiorari in eight new cases this week; five of those cases matriculated from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As usual, the Supreme Court is facing a year flavored by opinions from the country's largest circuit.

The Ninth Circuit is commonly regarded as the most liberal of the circuit courts of appeal, but does that mean that it's wrong? If Supreme Court reversal is the standard by which we measure right and wrong, then it is.

There are two types of metrics for evaluating Supreme Court reversal, according to the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA): the traditional reversal rate measures overall affirmances and reversals; the full reversal rate considers each element within a case that can be affirmed or reversed. For example, if a circuit court offered three theories supporting its decision, but the Supreme Court affirmed only one of those, the full reversal rate would calculate the case as one affirmance and two reversals.

The good news for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals? There's little difference between the circuit's traditional and full reversal rates. The bad news? The Ninth Circuit is the most reversed circuit by either measure. BNA reports the Ninth Circuits traditional and full reversal rates as 79.4 percent and 68.9 percent, respectively.

The SCOTUSblog Stat Pack for the October 2010 term provides context for those numbers. Last year, the Supreme Court plucked 32 percent of its cases, (26 of 82 cases), from the Ninth Circuit. As of June this year, 39 percent of the Supreme Court's cases for the 2011 term were from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Why do you think the Ninth Circuit has been slapped with more Supreme Court reversal than any other circuit? Is it the volume of cases? Breadth of topics? An ideological disconnect from reality?

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