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Which Circuit Courts Are Most and Least Reversed?

The United States Supreme Court; copy space.
By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

"Figures don't lie, but liars do figure."

So goes the quote often attributed to Mark Twain, but historians say the expression predated the witty writer. In any case, there is some relative truth in numbers.

For example, some folks say the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the most reversed appeals court. But according to statistics from the U.S. Supreme Court, that depends on when you count the decisions.

Most Reversed

In June 2018, the Washington Times said the Ninth Circuit had a reputation as "the most out-of-touch circuit." President Trump has perpetuated that reputation about the "9th Circus."

Based on the October 2017 term, the Ninth Circuit was often on the wrong side of the Supreme Court. The High Court reversed 15 of its cases -- twice as many as from any other federal appeals court. But over time, the Ninth Circuit is barely ahead of the curve. Since 2007, the 9th has trailed three other circuits in reversal rates. About 75.5 percent of its cases were reversed during that time, but the Sixth Circuit was most-reversed with a 88.1 percent rate. The Eighth Circuit came in second with 76.3 percent, and the Eleventh Circuit was reversed 75.9 percent of the time.

Least Reversed

On the other hand, the First Circuit had the lowest reversal rate at 45.5 percent since 2007. Of course, that was then and this is now.

Over that period, however, the Supreme Court reversed lower courts 70.2 percent of the time. It also accepted more cases from the Ninth Circuit than from any other federal appeals court. It's worth noting that the Ninth Circuit is also the largest circuit.

Of course, times change. As for reversal rates overall, however, not that much. The Supreme Court reversed 70.3 percent of the cases in the October 2017 term -- a 0.1 percent higher than the rate since 2007.

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