Yesterday, we investigated whether more questions at oral argument meant a longer wait for the opinion by tracking the correlation between total questions and lag time. Today, we apply the same test to the Court’s criminal cases.
We report the correlation between days from the oral argument to decision and total number of questions in criminal cases in Table 430 below. In contrast to the civil side, the correlation is for the most part in the expected direction – more questions equals more days under submission, not fewer. And the correlations are at least a bit higher on the criminal side than they are on the civil side.
In 2008, both correlations are negative: more questions means a quicker decision. For non-unanimous criminal cases, the correlation was a moderately strong -0.64, and for unanimous decisions, the correlation was a weak -0.13. In 2009, non-unanimous decisions had a positive correlation of 0.35, and unanimous decisions had a nearly equal figure – 0.34. In 2010, both numbers had turned negative again. Non-unanimous decisions had a correlation of -0.57, while unanimous decisions had a tiny correlation of -0.11. In 2011, non-unanimous decisions had a correlation of 0.46, to 0.41 for unanimous decisions. In 2012, both correlations were tiny: 0.31 on the non-unanimous side, only 0.11 on the unanimous side. The next year, the correlations got even smaller. On the non-unanimous side, the correlation was 0.28, and 0.1 on the unanimous side. In 2014, correlations for non-unanimous cases were quite strong at 0.62. Correlations among unanimous decisions were much smaller at 0.27. In 2015, the correlation between non-unanimous cases and total questions was only 0.4. The correlation on the unanimous side was 0.2. Last year, the correlation on the non-unanimous side was at least somewhat strong at 0.53. But the correlation on the unanimous side had turned in an unexpected direction again at -0.1.
Join us back here next Tuesday as we take another step in our study of the Court’s oral arguments.