SUMMARY: Parsons’ claim checks out. The Supreme Court’s decisions are categorized as being either certiorari petitions — essentially a review of a lower court’s decision — or original decisions, according to the Supreme Court’s annual statistics for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009.
Of the 1,081 decisions released by the Supreme Court that year, 53 of those (25 certiorari petitions and 28 original decisions) were released by Parker.
That’s 4.9 percent of the decisions released by the Supreme Court, and it was also the lowest total of any Supreme Court justice.
ANALYSIS: Parker’s total is especially low. The majority of the Supreme Court justices issued between 12 percent and 13 percent of the court’s total caseload that year. The only other justices to have handled below 10 percent were Chief JusticeSue Bell Cobb and Justice Greg Shaw, both of whom had extenuating circumstances.
Cobb’s total (5.4 percent) is lower because of her other responsibilities as the Supreme Court’s chief justice.
Shaw, who was elected in 2008, missed a few months of the fiscal year as he assumed his seat in January 2009. And because Shaw was previously on the Court of Criminal Appeals, he was recused from issuing decisions on certiorari petitions that came from that court. The Supreme Court’s annual statistics notes this as why Shaw’s total of 5.5 percent is “skewed downward.”
The court’s statistics also state that in 2008, Parker had “a substantial backlog of cases assigned to him.” Due to the backlog, some of Parker’s oldest cases were transferred to Cobb and the court’s two most senior associate justices.
Even then, the associate justices produced greater output than Parker as they completed 6.9 percent of the court’s caseload.
But Parker’s campaign says the statistics don't tell the whole story.
“What Mac Parsons is doing is taking statistics and manipulating them to say what he wants them to say,” said Matt Chancey, a spokesperson for Parker’s campaign. "Statistics can be twisted to say anything a person wants."
Chancey also explained Parker's backlog of cases by saying, "One judge could have the same number of cases, but a far bigger workload."
But in addition to statistically being the least productive justice, the court’s annual statistics also show that Parker is the slowest.
The court keeps track of the average number of days between the assignment of cases and the release of decisions. The court’s average is 78 days for certiorari petitions and 199 days for original decisions. Parker’s average is 217 days for certiorari petitions and 534 days for original decisions.
Supreme Court’s Annual Statistics: http://judicial.alabama.gov/docs/2009_SCStats.pdf