Before you decide whether to start or defend an appeal, you may want to consider the overall statistics. That said, the chances of any specific appeal succeeding depend on the merits of that case. There are no quotas that the courts apply. When one considers reversal rates, one has to keep in mind that the overall statistics include a fair number of appeals that are hopeless and that never had any realistic chance of success. With that proviso, here are some numbers:
- State court civil appeal reversal rates: In the past few years, the reversal rate in civil cases at the California Court of Appeal has been pretty consistently around 18 percent.
- State court appeal durations: The statewide median duration from the filing of a notice of appeal to the issuance of a written opinion has lately been about 14 months in civil cases.
- Federal court numbers: Reversal rates in the Ninth Circuit — the federal appellate court covering California — are generally lower than in the California state courts, although statistics are not published. The lower reversal rates in federal court partly reflect the large number of immigration and prisoner rights cases there, which, although technically ”civil,” are really in categories of their own.
If you are starting an appeal and find the reversal statistics unpromising, that doesn’t mean that you should give up. It just means that you need to be sure that you work with a lawyer who will make the best possible effort. Half-hearted efforts have no business in an appeal.
If you are defending an appeal, the statistics should not lull you into complacency. You do not want your case to be one of the approximately one-in-five that, in state court, are reversed.