We report after each month on interesting statistics from the data we generate from the daily opinion summaries from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and at the end of each court year (Oct.-Sept.) we will aggregate that–all of which provides useful insights into the inner workings of the Court, the relative success of various appeals, and more.
The April 2021 statistics are based on 236 total opinions released by the Court.
Where the appeals are coming from
- The most appellate decisions came from the Northern District of Texas, with 61 decisions from the 5th Circuit on cases originating there.
- The Middle District of Louisiana, Northern District of Mississippi, and Eastern District of Texas had perfect affirmance rates in April, with 4 affirmances of Middle District of Louisiana decisions, 2 affirmances of Northern District of Mississippi decisions, and 14 affirmances of Eastern District of Texas decisions.
- From decisions out of the Western District of Texas, there were 46 affirmances/appeal dismissals; 3 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacaturs; 1 full reversal; and 1 order of en banc rehearing.
- From the Southern District of Texas, there were 29 affirmances/appeal dismissals; 2 full reversals; and 4 full vacaturs.
- From the Northern District of Texas, there were 56 affirmances/appeal dismissals; 1 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacatur; 2 full vacaturs; 1 certification to a state supreme court; and 1 denial of en banc rehearing.
- From the Eastern District of Louisiana, there were 9 affirmances/appeal dismissals; and 1 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacatur.
- From the Western District of Louisiana, there were 13 affirmances/appeal dismissals; 2 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacaturs; and 1 full vacatur.
- From the Southern District of Mississippi, there were 9 affirmances/appeal dismissals; and 1 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacatur.
- In petitions for review of Board of Immigration Appeals decisions, there were 27 petition denials and no grants.
- In other agency-review petitions, there 2 denials of petitions for review of Department of Labor Administrative Review Board decisions; a denial of a petition for review of a DHHS decision; a denial of a petition to review an FTC decision; and a grant-in-part of a petition to review an NLRB decision.
What the appeals are about
- The largest number of appeals are of criminal conviction and/or sentencing issues. 119 resulted in full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 1 was a partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacatur; and 4 were full vacaturs/remands.
- In post-conviction relief cases, including state and federal habeas petitions, there were 8 full affirmances/appeal and 1 order of en banc rehearing.
- In immigration cases, there were 27 dismissals/denials of petitions for review of Board of Immigration Appeals orders; and 1 affirmance in an appeal from a district court on an immigration issue.
- In prisoner suits, there were 14 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; and 1 full vacatur.
- In commercial – civil cases, there were 14 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 2 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacaturs; and 1 certification to a state Supreme Court.
- In civil rights/constitutional claims (non-prisoner-suits), there were 10 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 2 partial affirmances/partial reversals/vacaturs; 2 full vacaturs; and 1 denial of en banc rehearing.
- In qualified immunity cases, there were 4 full affirmance/appeal dismissals; 2 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacaturs; and 2 full reversals.
- In employment/labor law cases, there were 7 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; and 1 partial affirmance/partial reversals/vacatur.
- In personal injury/non-commercial tort cases, there were 2 full affirmances/appeal dismissals.
- In environmental law/toxic tort decisions, there was 1 full reversal.
- In products liability cases, there were 2 full affirmances/appeal dismissals.
- In social security cases, there was 1 full affirmance/appeal dismissal.
- In attorney discipline cases, there was 1 full affirmance/appeal dismissal.
How much law is being made?
- Of the 236 opinions released by the 5th Circuit in April 2021, 37 were designated for publication. 23 of those were full affirmances; 5 were partial affirmances/partial reversal/vacaturs; 2 were full reversals; 1 was a full vacatur; 1 was a certification to a state supreme court; 1 was an order of en banc rehearing; 1 was a denial of en banc rehearing; 1 was a denial of a petition to review a BIA order; and 2 were denials of petitions to review other agency orders.
- 199 of the April opinions were unpublished, including 160 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 3 partial affirmances/partial reversals/vacaturs; 1 full reversal; 6 full vacaturs; 26 denials of petitions to review BIA orders; 2 denials of petitions to review other agency decisions; and 1 partial grant of a petition to review an agency decision.
Who was doing what on the Court?
Who was the busiest, in that they were on the most panels issuing opinions in April? (Judge Costa, followed closely by Judge Jones.) Who was the busiest writer, authoring the most attributed opinions? (Judge Higginson, followed closely by Judges Elrod and Southwick.) How many opinions did the Court issue per curiam, with no author listed? (205, with 199 of those unpublished.) Who participated in making the most law, participating in the most panels with published opinions? (Judge Willett, followed closely by Judges Smith, Southwick, Higginson, and Costa.) We have all that below (senior-status judges in italics):
Conclusions? Most decisions, as always, are unanimous, with only 7 dissenting opinions in April and 6 concurrences out of 236 opinions. By far the most decisions are per curiam, at 205, against 31 authored opinions. The Fifth Circuit continues to have a very active senior-status bench, with Judges King, Jolly, Clement, Higginbotham, Davis, and Wiener participating in an equivalent or greater number of panels to some of the active-status judges. Meanwhile, among active-status judges, the lightest production in April was from Chief Judge Owen and Judge Wilson.
Wrap it all together, and an opinion in April 2021 was most likely to be an unpublished per curiam affirming a criminal decision from the Northern District of Texas, with Judges Costa, Jones, and Dennis on the panel.