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SCOTUSblog's Interim Stat Pack - Insight on Coming Opinions?

By William Peacock, Esq. on May 10, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There's something uniquely appealing about statistics. Maybe it's because analyzing numbers and making correlation and causation arguments is conceptually similar to analyzing legal issues (gather evidence, make predictions with set levels of certainty, such as by a preponderance). Lawyers are analytical. Statistics are a useful tool to satisfy that tendency.

And while baseball has sabermetrics to help predict the performance of players and teams, the Supreme Court has Kedar Bhatia's SCOTUSblog stat pack -- which breaks down everything from the pace of judicial opinions released to the amount of times the Ninth Circuit has been reversed this term.

It's a law geeks paradise, and from that data, one might be able to make some predictions:

Majority Opinion Authorship and Vance v. Ball St.

Perhaps the most interesting of the stat pack's observations is that in December, there were nine oral arguments, and presumably, nine majority opinions. Justice Ginsburg snagged two, while Justices Scalia and Alto snagged none. For the term as a whole, Justice Ginsburg has five, Justice Scalia has four, and Justice Alito has only three.

Does that mean the libertarian/conservative Justice Alito is destined to pen the Vance v. Ball St. opinion? (Justice Breyer almost certainly won't be writing it.) And does that shed any light on what that opinion will hold?

Flood of Grants, Dearth of Opinions?

Another interesting trend is the pace of grants versus the pace of opinions released. Bhatia notes that the court's strong pace of grants (17) is only matched by October Term 2010's pace. Interestingly enough, the trickling of released opinions is also matched by October Term 2010. Does that mean the Supreme Court blogs need to brace for a wave of opinions? 2010's pace certainly picked up a bit towards the end.

Circuit Scorecard

This is my favorite. The stats-geek in me screams "small sample size" (most circuits only have three or less decisions), but it's still fun to point out which courts are being reversed repeatedly.

Unsurprisingly, the Ninth Circuit is a reversal standout - with seven decisions in, six have been reversed (86 percent). Overall, for all courts, out of 76 cases granted, and 39 decided, 29 have been reversed (74 percent).

For the record, last October Term, the Ninth was reversed 71 percent of the time. Overall, the court reversed 63 percent of cases decided.

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