July 2021 statistics

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 July 2021 statistics are based on 243 total opinions released by the Court.

Where the appeals are coming from

  • The most appellate decisions came from the Southern District of Texas, with 64 decisions from the 5th Circuit on cases originating there. 55 were full affirmances or appeal dismissals; 3 were partial affirmances/partial reversals/vacaturs; 4 were full reversals; 1 was a full vacatur; and 1 was a stay pending appeal.
  • The Southern District of Mississippi and the Northern District of Mississippi had the only perfect affirmance rates in July, with 4 affirmances in the Northern District and 2 affirmances in the Southern District.
  • From decisions out of the Northern District of Texas, there were 34 affirmances/appeal dismissals; 2 partial affirmances/partial reversal/vacaturs; 2 full reversals; 9 full vacaturs; and 1 denial of a motion for summary affirmance.
  • From the Western District of Texas, there were 39 affirmances/appeal dismissals; 3 partial affirmances/partial reversal/vacaturs; 1 full reversal; and 4 full vacaturs.
  • From the Eastern District of Texas, there were 24 affirmances/appeal dismissals; 1 full reversal; and 1 order of mandamus.
  • From the Eastern District of Louisiana, there were 10 affirmances/appeal dismissals; 1 full reversal; and 1 order for en banc rehearing.
  • From the Middle District of Louisiana, there were 7 affirmances/appeal dismissals; 2 partial affirmances/partial reversal/vacaturs; and 1 full vacatur.
  • From the Western District of Louisiana, there were 6 affirmances/appeal dismissals; 1 full reversal; 1 full vacatur; and 1 certification of a question to the state supreme court.
  • In petitions for review of Board of Immigration Appeals decisions, there were 16 petition denials/dismissals and 4 petition grants.
  • In other decisions or agency-review petitions, there was 1 denial of a petition for review of an EEOC decision.

What the appeals are about

  • The largest number of appeals are of criminal conviction and/or sentencing issues. 117 resulted in full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 2 were partial affirmances/partial reversal/vacaturs; 2 were full reversals; and 6 were full vacaturs/remands.
  • In post-conviction relief cases, including state and federal habeas petitions, there were 15 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; and 1 full vacatur.
  • In immigration cases, there were 16 dismissals/denials of petitions for review of Board of Immigration Appeals orders; 4 grants of petitions to review BIA orders; and 1 stay pending appeal.
  • In prisoner suits, there were 8 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 1 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacatur; and 4 full vacaturs.
  • In commercial – civil cases, there were 19 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 3 partial affirmances/partial reversal/vacaturs; 3 full reversals; and 1 mandamus.
  • In civil rights/constitutional claims (non-prisoner-suits), there were 6 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 1 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacatur; 1 full reversal; and 4 full vacaturs.
  • In qualified immunity cases, there were 3 full affirmances; 1 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacatur; and 1 full reversal.
  • In employment/labor law cases, there were 5 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 1 full reversal; 1 full vacatur; and 1 denial of a petition to review an EEOC order.
  • In personal injury/non-commercial tort cases, there were 2 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 1 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacatur; 1 full reversal; and 1 order of en banc rehearing.
  • In products liability cases, there were 2 full affirmances.
  • In social security cases, there was 1 full affirmance/appeal dismissal.
  • In bankruptcy cases, there was 1 full affirmance.
  • In abortion cases, there was 1 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacatur.
  • In arbitration cases, there was 1 full reversal.
  • In tax law cases, there were 2 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; and 1 certification to a state supreme court.
  • In administrative law cases, there was 1 denial of a petition to review an OSHRC order and 1 denial of a petition to review a USRRB order.

How much law is being made?

  • Of the 243 opinions released by the 5th Circuit in July 2021, 48 were designated for publication, a much higher proportion than in previous months. 22 of those were full affirmances; 7 were partial affirmances/partial reversal/vacaturs; 7 were full reversals; 4 were full vacaturs; 1 was an order granting en banc rehearing; 1 was a certification of a question to the state supreme court; 4 were dismissals/denials of petitions to review BIA orders; and 2 were orders granting other motions.
  • 198 of the July opinions were unpublished, including 159 full affirmances/appeal dismissals; 3 partial affirmance/partial reversal/vacatur; 3 full reversals; 1 mandamus; 12 full vacaturs; 12 denials/dismissals of petitions to review BIA orders; 4 grants of petitions to review BIA orders; 3 denials of other agency review petitions; and 1 other motion denial.

Who was doing what on the Court?

Who was the busiest, in that they were on the most panels issuing opinions in July? (Judge Ho, followed closely by Judge Stewart.) Who was the busiest writer, authoring the most attributed opinions? (Judge Stewart, followed closely by Judges Smith, Jones, and Dennis.) How many opinions did the Court issue per curiam, with no author listed? (200, with 195 of those unpublished.) Who participated in making the most law, participating in the most panels with published opinions? (Judge Smith, followed closely by Judge Ho.) We have all that below (senior-status judges in italics):

JudgeOn
panel
In
majority
Author
majority
Author
concur
Author
dissent/
dubitante
PublishedUnpublished
Owen6624
Jones3736311829
Smith454551530
Stewart505061040
Dennis3231311824
Elrod363422630
Southwick2626224
Haynes393931633
Graves39372633
Higginson282731424
Costa33331231
Willett32322626
Ho5353211340
Duncan32322725
Engelhardt29291524
Oldham27274522
Wilson31311724
Dist. Ct. Judge
sitting by
designation
4414
King3232527
Jolly2222121
Higginbotham3232311022
Davis2424123
Wiener101019
Barksdale999
Clement25251322
per curiam2005195

Conclusions? Most decisions in July, as always, were unanimous, with only 7 dissenting opinions and 5 concurrences out of 243 opinions. By far the most decisions are per curiam, at 200, against 43 authored opinions; though this is a larger proportion of opinions being attributed to a particular author than in past months. The Fifth Circuit continues to have a very active senior-status bench, with Judges King, Higginbotham, Clement, Davis, and Jolly 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 July was from Chief Judge Owen and Judges Oldham, Southwick, Higginson, and Engelhardt.

Wrap it all together, and an opinion in July 2021 was most likely to be an unpublished per curiam affirming a criminal decision from the Southern District of Texas, with Judges Ho, Stewart, and Smith on the panel.