Inputs and Outputs on Appeal: An Empirical Study of Briefs, Big Law, and Case Complexity

39 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2020 Last revised: 14 Jul 2020

See all articles by Adam M. Samaha

Adam M. Samaha

New York University School of Law

Michael Heise

Cornell Law School

Gregory C. Sisk

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

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Date Written: July 13, 2020

Abstract

The relationship between judicial inputs and outputs remains opaque. Conventional wisdom is plentiful but useful evidence is not. This study examines civil appeals in three federal appellate courts, concentrating on the briefing, the attorneys, and the complexity of the case. We find no evidence that short briefs are more persuasive, while the evidence in favor of long briefs on the appellant’s side is provocative. We also find suggestive evidence that the experience of the lead lawyer on the appellee’s side matters. However, Big Law firms and large teams of lawyers do not seem to perform better on appeal, all else equal. Finally, different kinds of case complexity point in different directions. The presence of a cross-appeal is associated with judge votes to reverse—but not necessarily in favor of the cross-appellant. At the same time, complex trial-level proceedings may be associated with judge votes to affirm.

Keywords: courts, judges, empirical, appeals, litigation

Suggested Citation

Samaha, Adam M. and Heise, Michael and Sisk, Gregory C., Inputs and Outputs on Appeal: An Empirical Study of Briefs, Big Law, and Case Complexity (July 13, 2020). NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 20-14, Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-26, NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 20-14, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3555841 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3555841

Adam M. Samaha (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Michael Heise

Cornell Law School ( email )

308 Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-0069 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

Gregory C. Sisk

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States
651-962-4892 (Phone)

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