Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why Federal Courts Do Not Apply The Rule of Law

Part 3: Justification # 1—Outcomes in Non-Precedential Cases Are Not Subject To Reasonable Differences of Opinion

To my mind, the most persuasive justification for treating a decision in a non-precedential manner would be that the result is so obvious that there is literally no dispute concerning the nature of the outcome. Stated another way, no reasonable minded person would reach a different conclusion concerning who wins and who loses. Unfortunately, the objective data simply does not support this justification.

In an article in Forbes, entitled “Justice in the Dark”, October 10, 2000, the author debunks that myth with some startling statistics. In the 79% of the cases that are unpublished and non-precedential the district courts are reversed an astounding 37% of the time and there is disagreement among the panel that results in a dissent 24% of the time.

In the year these statistics were gathered there were 26,819 federal appellate decisions. There were 7,839 reversals in unpublished non-precedential opinions. There were only 5,682 precedential opinions in that year!

That great trial lawyer Vinny Gambini in My Cousin Vinny stated: “Are we to believe that water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than anywhere else on the face of the earth?” To paraphrase Vinny: “Are we to believe that there are more district court reversals in cases that are supposedly beyond dispute, than the entire universe of precedential cases, which presumably are intended resolve controversial situations?”

I am done with this one!

-Larry Salibra
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