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Trends in the Sixth Circuit – A Substantial Increase In Written Decisions

Recently we discussed academic criticism claiming that circuit courts may respond to increased caseload pressure by spending less time per case or lengthening the appeals process.  We found evidence suggesting that this is not occurring at the Sixth Circuit.  One interesting side note that our analysis showed is that the percentage of written decisions has increased significantly over the past decade.  We have calculated that the percentage of total appeals that end in a written decision has increased to 31% in 2018 from 25% in 2004.

Note that appeals ending without a written decision do not indicate an unwritten judicial decision because the judiciary’s statistics include cases that end with settlements and other voluntary dismissals.  We know that the Sixth Circuit’s excellent mediation program resolves around 400 appeals each year—which are resolutions agreed to by all parties that do not result in a written decision.  Given those numbers, the 20% increase in written opinions since the mid-2000s, and our own experience, we suspect that almost all litigants may now be receiving a reasoned, written decision when their appeal is decided.

This is a very welcome development.  Some appellate courts give one-line (or even one-word) decisions in appeals that may be critically important to the parties.  Litigants (and their lawyers!) may tend to chafe at the impression—whether or not it reflects the reality of the court’s internal decision-making process—that their appeal and arguments were rejected without actual consideration.  And written opinions have obvious benefits for the development and transparency of caselaw in our common-law system.

© Copyright 2019 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP


About this Author

Colter Paulson, Squire Patton Boggs, Appellate Litigation, Manufacturing Lawyer
Senior Associate

Contributor to the Squire Patton Boggs Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog, which discusses news and opinions from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Colter Paulson focuses his practice on litigation, particularly appellate litigation. He has litigated matters in the manufacturing, finance, design, healthcare and high-tech industries including employment cases. Colter also has experience in copyright and patent litigation, both at trial level and on appeal to the Federal Circuit. As an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law,...

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Benjamin Beaton Litigation Attorney Squire Patton Boggs Law Firm

Benjamin Beaton is a litigator who handles complex appeals, trial proceedings and regulatory disputes. He has authored more than a dozen briefs at the US Supreme Court, where he previously served as a law clerk, and drafted dozens more in the federal courts of appeal and state supreme courts. In trial proceedings across the country, Ben has tried cases, briefed and argued dispositive motions, defended and examined high-profile witnesses and negotiated settlements. Outside the courtroom, Ben has drawn on his governmental experience to counsel a Fortune 100 CEO appearing before a US Senate committee, resolve congressional investigations of a major bank and represent many of the country’s largest financial institutions before the SEC. Many of Ben’s cases involve complex questions of healthcare, energy, technology, insurance and financial services regulation.

At the start of his legal career, Ben clerked on the US Supreme Court for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit for Judge A. Raymond Randolph. He also worked as a legal fellow in Uganda for the International Justice Mission and traveled to London as a Temple Bar Scholar. A native and resident of Kentucky, Ben has handled appeals for the University of Kentucky and several other major institutions in the Commonwealth. He helped found the Kentucky Business Council and sits on the Board of Trustees for his alma mater, Centre College. Before attending law school, Ben served as deputy chief of staff for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and as a legislative assistant for the US Congressman representing western Kentucky.