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Final October Term 2012 Stat Pack

[Updated June 27, 2013 2:50 PM: We have updated the Stat Pack to reflect the two petitions for certiorari that were granted today. The links below all feature updated information.]

Our final Stat Pack for October Term 2012 is now available, and you can download it in its entirety here. This edition features many of the same figures that we have provided for years now, like the Circuit Scorecard, Frequency in the Majority, and Justice Agreement Rates, as well as many new additions, like an expanded section on merits opinions in historical context, more information on 5-4 cases, and detailed Justice Agreement breakdowns. At the end of this post, we have included a few key takeaways from the Stat Pack.

You can view the Stat Pack as one document (available here) or in individual parts. This edition of the Stat Pack features the following sections:

We expect orders and possibly summary reversals tomorrow, June 27, 2013. If we receive any, we will update the Stat Pack to account for the changes.

We would like to thank all of the individuals who provided comments and feedback throughout the Term. Our Stat Pack is compiled as a labor of love, and the SCOTUSblog community has been hugely influential in shaping the content and design of the Stat Pack. If you have any further comments, suggestions, or corrections, please do not hesitate to email me at

Here are a few takeaways from the Stat Pack:

  • The Court released seventy-eight merits opinions for the Term, a number roughly in line with the number it has produced in recent years. (Page 9).
  • The Ninth Circuit, which has a reputation for being frequently reversed in the Supreme Court, lived up to that reputation during OT12. Of the fourteen cases at the Supreme Court during OT12 that came from the Ninth Circuit, two were affirmed and twelve were reversed, an eighty-six-percent reversal rate. The Court’s average reversal rate for other circuits and state supreme courts was sixty-nine percent. (Page 3).
  • The Eleventh Circuit, which was reversed in all six cases that it had in the Supreme Court, had a combined total of only five votes in its favor during OT12. That means it lost by an average margin of 8-1. By comparison, the Fifth Circuit, which lost five of its six cases in the Supreme Court, nonetheless received a total of twenty-two votes (out of a possible sixty-two) to affirm, for an average losing margin of 6-3. (Page 4). The Tenth and Seventh Circuits were the only two circuits with a winning record for the Term. (Page 3).
  • The Court released a greater percentage of 9-0 and 5-4 decisions than it has in the past. On average, from OT08-OT11, 43% of its cases were decided 9-0, with 22% decided by a vote of 5-4, for a combined total of 55% of cases that were either 9-0 or 5-4. During OT12, 49% of the Court’s cases were decided by a vote of 9-0, while 29% were 5-4, for a combined total of 78% of all cases. (Page 5).
  • For the first time in several years, the Court did not decide any cases that came to it by way of an appeal or through its original jurisdiction. An appeal differs from a writ of certiorari in a few small ways, and has comprised a dwindling part of the Court’s docket for several decades now. The Court has one case docketed for next Term that came by way of an appeal. (Page 6).
  • Justice Clarence Thomas issued more opinions this Term than any of his colleagues, twenty-five. He authored eight majority opinions, including five in cases that were decided 9-0, eleven concurring opinions, and six dissents. This is the third time that Justice Thomas has led his colleagues in this category since we began collecting opinion statistics for the Court; he also had the highest total number of opinions in OT04 and OT07. Last Term, Justice Thomas had the sixth-highest number of total opinions, sixteen. Justice Elena Kagan issued the fewest opinions this Term – eight majority opinions, two concurring opinions, and three dissenting opinions; last Term she tied with Justice Anthony Kennedy in that category. (Page 8).
  • The Court produced its second-lowest number of total opinions since we began collecting statistics during OT95 – 169 opinions in seventy-eight merits cases, eight more than the 161 opinions released during OT11. (Page 9).
  • Justice Samuel Alito took a star turn during OT12, authoring a staggering six 5-4 opinions. That number is particularly remarkable because he was only in the majority in thirteen 5-4 opinions (only the fourth-highest total). It is also the greatest number of 5-4 decisions in a single Term since OT06, when Justice Kennedy – who was in the majority of all twenty-four of that Term’s 5-4 decisions – wrote six majority opinions in 5-4 cases. Before that, no Justice had issued six majority opinions in 5-4 cases since we began tracking that statistic during OT95. (Page 12).
  • The conservative bloc once again dominated the slate of 5-4 opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito made up the majority in ten of the twenty-three cases decided by a five-Justice majority. The liberal bloc (Justice Kennedy plus Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) prevailed in six decisions. (Page 15).
  • An interesting third alignment began to appear in 5-4 decisions. In three separate cases, the majority of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, and Alito fended off Justices Scalia, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. This alignment — which was on display in Maryland v. King, Maracich v. Spears, and Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl this Term, and in Williams v. Illinois last Term – has Justices Scalia and Breyer switching sides to join common adversaries. (Page 15).
  • Justice Kennedy was once again the Justice most frequently in the majority of 5-4 decisions. He has been either the most frequent Justice in the majority of 5-4 decisions, or tied for that title, in every Term since OT03 and thirteen times since OT95. (Page 16).
  • Justices Ginsburg and Kagan had the highest rate of agreement for all cases during OT12. The pair of Justices agreed in ninety-six percent of all cases, or in seventy-two out of seventy-five cases in which they both voted. The same pair had the highest agreement in all divided cases (92%), and in 5-4 cases (100%). The pair of Justices with the lowest agreement in all cases and in divided cases was Justices Ginsburg and Alito. Three pairs of Justices did not agree in a single 5-4 decision: Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Sotomayor, Justices Ginsburg and Alito, and Justices Alito and Kagan.

Recommended Citation: Kedar Bhatia, Final October Term 2012 Stat Pack, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 26, 2013, 6:36 PM),