The Court of Appeals entered a new era on January 1, 2022 as it became the primary appellate court for the Commonwealth and began accepting appeals of right in virtually all cases proceeding from the circuit courts of the Commonwealth. As part of my effort to waste my semi-retirement, I have begun gathering statistics on the filings made since this momentous change . . . and so far it doesn’t seem that momentous.
I have only gathered the most rudimentary information on the filings through January 31, but if the first month of 2022 is a herald of what is to come, the rush of appeals that had been predicted in some quarters is looking more like a stroll. Here is what we know so far:
The last filing in the Court to be assigned a docket number in January was number 150; note that this does not translate to 150 appeals or even 150 filings — not every filing in the Court is assigned a docket number and not every docket number gets permanently assigned; thus, there are actually on 145 records with January filing dates and a docket number.
57 of these records are for Criminal Appeals of Right.
30 of these records are for Civil (non-Domestic Relations) Appeals of Right.
24 of these records are for Domestic Relations Appeals.
8 of these records are for cases over which the Court lacks jurisdiction
7 of these records are for Workers’ Compensation Appeals.
5 of these records are for Petitions for a Writ of Actual Innocence.
4 of these records are for Commonwealth’s Appeals of Pre-trial Actions.
3 of these record are for Review of Injunctions Granted or Denied in the Circuit Court.
2 of these records are for Sexually Violent Predator Reviews.
2 of these records are from Appeals of Denials of Bonds.
1 record is from an Employment Grievance Proceedings.
1 record is from an Administrative Appeal.
1 record is from a finding of Criminal Contempt
While it may not be fair to extrapolate from just one month’s numbers, 145 docketed cases multiplied by 12 is 1740 cases. In 2021, the Court’s last case was assigned docket number was 1423, while the Supreme Court’s was 1241 (and this included a great many appeals from the “old” Court of Appeals docket). As of today, the Supreme Court has assigned docket number 339 — an average of only 67 or so cases a month, and the Court of Appeals is at 875 — and average of 175, so a slight pick-up from January.
Dispositions have already been entered in 46 of the cases assigned docket numbers in January 2022:
27 were Dismissed.
10 were Withdrawn.
5 were Transferred to the Supreme Court
2 were Affirmed.
1 was Denied.
1 was Reversed and Remanded.
This leaves 99 pending cases, of which just 25 are civil cases. Note that the dismissal rate is 18%, slightly lower than the typically cited “20 to 25%” dismissal rate for appeals. This may be in part due to attorneys (and pro se litigants) paying closer attention to the rules given that they are aware that the rules have changed. It is also possible that more of these cases will be dismissed as they proceed through the multiple levels of checks and reviews.
As time permits, I shall continue to compile and report on the Court’s docket.