Maryland Certiorari Statistics, September Term 2017

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

I’m often asked what percentage of certiorari petitions the Maryland Court of Appeals grants. Each year, the Maryland Judiciary publishes a statistical abstract. The most recent report includes this table:

Maryland Certiorari Statistics

I’ve begun reviewing the Court’s petition docket to get more details. My work is in progress, but I’d like to share some preliminary findings from the Court’s September Term 2017 Petition Docket, which includes petitions filed from March 1, 2017 through February 28, 2018. Let’s begin with a few caveats.

First, correlation does not imply causation. Every petition will rise or fall on its own merits, and these numbers tell only a tiny part of the story.

Second, the numbers are not final. A handful of petitions remain pending.

Third, the data is not perfect. The dockets in certain cases (including guardianship, adoption, and juvenile justice) are not available online, giving rise to greater need to make educated guesses. And, just as appellate lawyers say that the big typo only stands out once you hit “submit,” I’m sure I’ll discover a data-entry error after this post goes live.

Fourth, my numbers are quantitative and are only a starting point for meaningful analysis. An appellate lawyer could look at the data and make an argument for why the real odds are higher or lower than they appear. I try to avoid making judgment calls about the data—such as whether a group of petitions should really be treated as a single petition.

Bypass petitions, which seek review before a decision by the Court of Special Appeals, are an excellent example. The bypass grant rate looks high at first glance. Out of 17 bypass petitions, 9 have been granted, 7 have been denied, and 1 remains pending. All 3 grants in private (non-governmental) disputes, however, involved the same question, were filed the same day through the same lead attorney, and were consolidated for briefing and argument. There would be good reason to treat these 3 petitions as 1, but it’s a slippery slope to make judgment calls about which petitions should or should not count.

I do make one major judgment call—to focus on the grant-rate for petitions filed through counsel. Unrepresented (pro se) litigants file over half the petitions. The Court takes pro se petitions seriously and sometimes grants them. But this blog is intended primarily for the Maryland bar, and the relevant statistics for Maryland practitioners relate to petitions filed through counsel.

Against that backdrop, here are some numbers of interest from the Court’s 2017 Petition Docket.

Civil Petitions Filed Through Counsel, September Term 2017

  • Overall (149 total petitions): 45 grants, with 2 still pending, for a grant rate of at least 30%.
  • From Reported COSA Opinions (29 total petitions): 15 grants, for a grant rate of approximately 52%.
  • From Unreported COSA Opinions (87 total petitions): 16 grants, with 2 still pending, for a grant rate of at least 18%.
  • From COSA Opinions with a Dissent (4 total): 4 grants, or 100%.
  • Bypass Petitions (15 total petitions): 9 grants, or 60%.
  • Petitions by the State of Maryland (5 total petitions): 4 grants, or 80%.

 

Criminal Petitions Filed Through Counsel, September Term 2017

  • Overall (94 petitions): 32 grants, with 4 still pending, for a grant rate of at least 34%.
  • From Reported COSA opinions (17 total petitions): 11 grants, for a grant rate of approximately 65%.
  • From Unreported COSA Opinions (74 total petitions): 21 grants, with 3 still pending, for a grant rate of at least 28%.
  • From COSA Opinions with a Dissent (1 total): 0 grants, or 0%.
  • Bypass Petitions (2 total petitions): 1 denial, with 1 still pending, for a grant rate of either 0% or 50%.
  • Petitions by the State of Maryland (10 total petitions): 7 grants, or 70%.
  • Petitions by the Office of the Public Defender Appellate Division (difficult to quantify with precision, but approximately 55 total): 23 grants, with 7 still pending, for a rate of at least 41%.
  • Petitions by Private Counsel (difficult to quantify with precision, but approximately 29 total): 6 grants, or approximately 21%.
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