Jerry Hartzell recently published an article in the April 2014 issue of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice’s Trial Briefs. The article is entitled “Probability of Success on Appeal: Reversal Rates for the Fourth Circuit and the North Carolina Court of Appeals.”

The article is worth an independent read, but Jerry concluded that in 2013 “the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversal rate (in whole or in part) exceeded the Fourth Circuit’s reversal rate by a factor of ten.”  For all Fourth Circuit cases, the reversal rate was 3.9% on the merits and 2.9% when he also factored in cases dismissed, but not decided on the merits.  The numbers were a little better in private civil cases, with a reversal rate of 7.5% for cases decided on the merits, but only 4.6% for all private civil appeals.

The story is quite different in the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  Including those cases “affirmed in part, and reversed in part,” the aggregate reversal rate in 2013 was 30.5% percent.  Appellants should not be too quick to celebrate, however.  The complete reversal rate was only 13%, meaning that an appellant’s likelihood of obtaining a total victory was much lower.  Because the Court of Appeals’ data did not differentiate between categories of cases, no information was available on the reversal rates for civil cases alone.

Thanks to Jerry Hartzell for digging into the numbers for the rest of us!  I will be pulling this article out the next time a client asks, “What’s my probability of success on appeal?”

–Beth Scherer