I've written a computer program to process 4261 Supreme Court of Canada decisions going back to approximately 2006.

UPDATE: There's now an odds calculator that builds on this work.

A Few Highlights

  • SCC criminal appeals are 47% more likely to result in a win than the average case
  • Only about 6% of appeals result in a win for the appellant
  • Ontario appellate decisions are much less likely to result in wins for appellants on appeal than other provinces
  • Questions of procedural law rarely result in wins for appellants (63% less likely to win than average)
  • British Columbia civil cases are 71% more likely to result in a win for an appellant than the typical Canadian civil case
  • 48% of appeals that are "as of right" result in a win for the appellant

Criminal vs. Civil: Criminal Wins

Criminal cases are 47% more likely to result in win for the appellant than civil cases. Although they're more likely, there's still only a 9% chance of winning on appeal to the SCC.

Type of Case# of CasesWinsLossesWin PercentageRelative Chance of Win (Compared to Total)
Civil306714629214.76%-18.22%
Criminal119410210928.54%+46.73%
Total426124840135.82%0%

Originating Court Differences

A case from Nova Scotia is 55% more likely to result in a win for the appellant than the average Canadian case and a case from Ontario is 36% less likely to result in a win. Although the Ontario Court of Appeal had twice as many cases appealed to the SCC as British Columbia there were about the same number of wins in the two provinces.

British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are all great provinces for appellants to appeal adverse judgements (>30% more likely to result in a win than average).

Originating Court# of CasesWinsLossesWin PercentageRelative Chance of Win (Compared to Total)
Alberta327203076.12%+5.15%
British Columbia582455377.73%+32.81%
Federal Court581405416.88%+18.21%
Manitoba927857.61%+30.75%
Nova Scotia111101019.01%+54.8%
Ontario11844411403.72%-36.09%
Quebec11096410455.77%-0.86%
Saskatchewan1018937.92%+36.08%
Total426124840135.82%0%

Area of Law Matters

The most significant factor in determining the chance of an appellant winning on appeal is the area of law. Procedural law cases are the second most frequently heard type but appellants win only 2% of the time while on average appellants win 6% of the time. Criminal law cases are the most common and result in wins for the appellant 75% more often than the typical case. Constitutional law cases are good bets for appellants (140% more likely to win) but Charter cases aren't (15% less likely to win).

Area of Law# of CasesWinsLossesWin PercentageRelative Chance of Win (Compared to Total)
Administrative Law26592563.4%-41.58%
Canadian Charter586295574.95%-14.95%
Civil Procedure10331002.91%-50%
Commercial Law269112584.09%-29.73%
Constitutional Law93138013.98%+140.2%
Criminal Law8128372910.22%+75.59%
Family Law14691376.16%+5.84%
Labour Law19471873.61%-37.97%
None12611250.79%-86.43%
Procedural Law607135942.14%-63.23%
Property Law14731442.04%-64.95%
Taxation14751423.4%-41.58%
Torts258132455.04%-13.41%
Total426124840135.82%0%

Appeals As Of Right: Very Good Odds

Cases that are heard as of right are 720% more likely to result in a win for the appellant than a typical case. Appellants win 48% of all appeals brought to the SCC. I'm not an expert on the SCC but I believe the reason is addressed in this sentence on the SCC's FAQ page: "In criminal cases, there is an automatic right of appeal where an acquittal has been set aside in the provincial court of appeal or where one judge in the provincial court of appeal dissents on a question of law."

Type of Appeal# of CasesWinsLossesWin PercentageRelative Chance of Win (Compared to Total)
As of Right109525747.71%+719.73%
By Leave413719239454.64%-20.28%
Total426124840135.82%0%

Court and Type: Don't Appeal ONCA Civil Cases

A BC Court of Appeal civil case is 71% more likely to result in a win for the appellant than the average case while an ON Court of Appeal civil case is 55% less likely to result in a win. Quebec criminal cases are 31% more likely to result in wins for appellants (11% of the time appellants win).

In the table below I've compared the relative chance of winning for each row against only cases of the same character (criminal or civil). The reason for this is that criminal cases are much more likely to result in appellant wins than civil cases (see the table above).

Jurisdiction - Type# of CasesWinsLossesWin PercentageRelative Chance of Win (Compared to Total)
Alberta - Civil206101964.85%+1.89%
Alberta - Criminal121101118.26%-3.28%
British Columbia - Civil393323618.14%+71.01%
British Columbia - Criminal189131766.88%-19.44%
Federal Court - Civil573395346.81%+43.07%
Ontario - Civil749167332.14%-55.04%
Ontario - Criminal435284076.44%-24.59%
Quebec - Civil841348074.04%-15.13%
Quebec - Criminal2683023811.19%+31.03%
Total426124840135.82%0%

Methodology Notes and Raw Data

This data set is taken from the Supreme Court of Canada dockets and includes applications for leave to appeal (along with anything else that makes it into the docket [i.e. is given a docket number]).

I've excluded any type of data where the number of cases for that category was less than 2% of the total (because it's not going to be significant) although the numbers still count for the aggregate totals. This is the reason why only some provinces are shown in the tables above. This is a rather arbitrary cutoff but it keeps the focus on differences that matter.

I've rendered the processed data set as an HTML table which you can access here: http://www.cameronhuff.com/blog/_assets/scc_stats/scc_cases.html.

You can download the complete data set used to generate the tables in JSON format here: http://www.cameronhuff.com/blog/_assets/scc_stats/scc_cases.json. Wondering how to view this file? Here's an online JSON file viewer that you can load it into: jsonediteronline.org.

If you'd like a copy of the parser or downloading scripts used to generate this please get in touch (addison@cameronhuff.com).