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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ind. Courts - Highlights of the Court of Appeals’ 2013 Report

Commentary by Joel Schumm, professor at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law

The Indiana Court of Appeals’ annual report for 2013 was released on Tuesday. Appellate lawyers and those who follow the appellate courts will find much of interest in the fourteen-page report, and I’ve included below some highlights similar to the ones I noted last year.

The number of majority opinions has steadily declined over the past six years by nearly 25% as shown in the table.

Indiana Court of Appeals Majority Opinions, 2008 - 2013*
Year Criminal/PCR Civil Expedited/Other Total
2013 1232 557 269 2058
2012 1271 594 278 2143
2011 1408 654 335 2397
2010 1411 610 583 2375
2009 1613 583 373 2569
2008 1700 716 323 2739

The decline has been across all categories of cases but particularly steep in criminal cases, which have declined nearly 28%. The widespread use of sentencing appeal waivers in most plea agreements has surely contributed to this decline. The general decline in the number of jury trials has likely contributed as well.

The number of majority opinions written by each judge who served the full year varied considerably, from 91 (Judge Pyle) to 152 (Judge Crone). The average was 130 opinions among the fifteen judges. (Six senior judges collectively wrote 104 opinions for the court.) In 2012 the range was narrower: 125 to 156, with Judge Crone again topping the list. As mentioned in last year’s post, these numbers are much lower than during the higher caseload years when Judge Baker would often top the list with numbers like 313 (2007) or 242 (2008).

Again this year, the vast majority of opinions were unanimous. The fifteen judges penned an average of only five dissenting opinions (72 total). Judges Barnes, Mathias, and Pyle authored zero dissenting opinions, while Judges Riley (16), Baker (10), and Brown (9) wrote the most. A post last summer commented on the high number of dissents from the Riley/Bradford/Brown panel.

The Court of Appeals published an average of 25% of its opinions, again with wide variations among judges. Three judges published more than 30% of their opinions: Judges Brown (36.0%), May (34.5%), and Pyle (30.8%). Three published less than 17%: Judges Friedlander (13.8%), Kirsch (13.8%), and Bailey (16.9%). Judges Friedlander and Kirsch also published the lowest percentage of their opinions in 2012 as well.

The court heard fewer arguments (71) in 2013 than in recent years. Most judges were near the average of 14, except for Judge Brown (9) on the low end and Judges Baker (19) and May (17) on the high end. As explained in this post, the court denies more requests for oral argument than its grants. It denied 65 requests in 2013, and many of the 71 arguments were scheduled without a request from counsel.

The court granted 38.5% (77) of the 200 petitions for permissive interlocutory appeals filed in 2013. This is down a bit from recent years, such as the 45.8% grant rate in 2012.

Finally, the court received a petition for rehearing in about one-eighth (259) of its cases. Last year it granted 16% (42) of those petitions, which is a bit higher than the 12% rate from last year.
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*The Court of Appeals report runs January to December, while the Indiana Supreme Court runs on a July to June fiscal year.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 13, 2014 02:54 PM
Posted to Schumm - Commentary