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3CBA Report: Third Circuit by the Numbers

By Robyn Hagan Cain on December 01, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Should a brief live up to its name? When Third Circuit Court of Appeals judges dream of case law at night, what topics haunt their REM-cycle?

Thanks to a statistical analysis from the Bar Association for the Third Federal Circuit (3CBA), we're closer to finding the answers to these pressing questions.

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Court publishes a giant report each year, detailing statistical data about the federal appellate courts. The 3CBA was kind enough to sift through the report and pull out the relevant Third Circuit Court of Appeals data. Let's review some of the highlights.

First, caseloads are growing in the Third Circuit. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of cases up for consideration in the Third Circuit has increased by 13.5 percent. The 3CBA says that increase should serve as a reminder to lawyers to "keep their briefs as brief as possible; use plain, easy-to-understand English; and ensure that the joint appendix puts the most pertinent information at the fingertips of the judges and their law clerks."

The more robust caseload also means that the court is deciding more cases - approximately 86 percent - strictly on the briefs. That number is significantly higher than the 73 percent federal circuit average for decisions without oral arguments, but it also results in a high percentage of "unpublished cases." While the national average for unpublished cases was 84 percent in 2010, almost 90 percent of the Third Circuit's opinions were unpublished.

Should you choose to appeal your case, the court will probably affirm the district court's decision; the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed only 8.7 percent of the cases it considered in 2010.

If you're unhappy with that result, you could fare better in the Supreme Court. While The Nine only heard five cases out of the Third Circuit last year, they reversed 60 percent of the Third Circuit opinions they reviewed.

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