Federal Cases Decided on the Merits and Reversal Rates

Erik W. Scharf’s and Wayne R. Atkins’ article “What are my Chances?  Federal Courts of Appeal by the Numbers” was recently published in The Florida Bar Journal Volume 87, No. 1 (January 2013) in which they examine by federal circuit the number of cases decided on the merits as well as the reversal rate of those cases.  They found that for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2011 the following statistics:

Circuit

Percentage of Cases Decided on Merits

Reversal Rate

All

52.4%

8.6%

D.C.

45.9%

15.5%

First

57.6%

8.2%

Second

52.9%

6.0%

Third

56.7%

8.6%

Fourth

61.2%

5.6%

Fifth

49.8%

8.3%

Sixth

51.1%

9.5%

Seventh

45.9%

16.9%

Eighth

64.6%

4.8%

Ninth

50.0%

10.1%

Tenth

54.1%

5.0%

Eleventh

47.9%

8.9%

In short, just over 50% of all federal cases were decided on the merits, with less than 10% of those being reversed.