How can you use statistics like the ones published on this site to help you decide whether to appeal a court judgment? Let’s say you just learned that the district court judge granted the opposing party’s motion for summary judgment in the Title VII case in which you’re a party, and you’re still within the period you’re allowed to file a notice of appeal. Statistics can give you some idea of what might happen once your case is on review (hence the name of this site, by the way – Once Upon Review). The statistics I’m going to address here are:
For Civil Rights – Employment cases (N=92):
Time to disposition: First quartile – 6.99 months
Median – 9.55 months
Third quartile – 11.91 months
Percent affirmed or dismissed 91.30%
In FY 2013, the Third Circuit decided 92 cases brought under employment-related statutes (e.g., Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA). I’m not including in this discussion cases brought under Section 1983 that allege some constitutional violation in the context of an employment relationship (e.g., retaliation for exercising First Amendment rights).
Of the 92 cases, 57 ended with a decision on a summary judgment motion (about 62%). Another 19% ended with a dismissal, usually on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Eight cases were brought to the Third Circuit after a jury or bench trial. Yes, I’m going by the data that I collected here – the Administrative Office’s published information doesn’t include such details.
By the time of the Third Circuit’s decision, those 92 cases had been on the appellate court’s docket from 65 days (minimum) to 1,196 days (maximum). The median time between docketing and disposition was 290.5 days, or 9.55 months. So, 50% of the 92 cases were decided in about 9½ months. Other statistics show that 25% of the cases were decided in about 7 months and 75% of the cases were decided in just under a year (362.25 days or 11.91 months). So, one way of looking at the statistics above is that they suggest that if you do appeal, you can expect that you’ll have to wait 9½ to 12 months to get a decision on the merits of your employment case. Obviously, a lot of things can happen to bring your specific case either under or over that range, but that range is a probably a good starting estimate.
Now, what you’re probably most interested in is your chances of success on appeal. Taking things from a general perspective – without delving into the specific facts of your case – one indicator of your chances of success is how often the Third Circuit affirms the district court decision. From an appellant’s perspective this is usually a complete loss, and conversely, from an appellee’s perspective, it is a complete win.
In FY 2013, the Third Circuit affirmed or dismissed 91.30% of the 92 cases described above.
Yes, that’s a high number. Yes, that’s a quite a bit higher than the 81% percent listed in my prior post for “other civil cases” – the category that includes the 92 employment cases. And finally, yes, that number means that you could wait a year only for the Third Circuit to tell you that you lose.
What the percent affirmed number doesn’t tell you is whether your specific case is like the cases in which the Third Circuit affirmed or whether it is more like the cases in which the Third Circuit reversed, reversed in part, vacated, or vacated in part the district court’s judgment (the remaining 8.7%). If someone is advising you to appeal, however, a good question to ask that person is how your case is more like the cases in the 8.7%.