The standard measure of a federal circuit court’s judicial performance is its reversal rate—how often the Supreme Court reverses the circuit when reviewing decisions from that circuit. This Note introduces an alternative way to measure circuit performance: circuit split resolutions.
When circuits disagree (“split”), the Supreme Court often intervenes to resolve the issue. Even though several circuits might have taken a certain position, the Supreme Court reverses only one. Because the Court does not randomly select which circuit to review, relying on reversal rates can paint a distorted picture of the Supreme Court’s rate of agreement with a given court. Instead, for each circuit split resolution, this Note tracks which circuits the Court agreed with and which it disagreed with. A higher agreement rate marks better performance.
This Note uses circuit split resolution to probe whether increasing circuit specialization affects circuit performance. The results lend preliminary but inconclusive support to the proposition that increased specialization by generalist courts improves performance.