Yesterday, we continued our ongoing analysis of the Court’s oral arguments by looking at whether the margin in number of questions between the parties tended to be larger when the Court was unanimous. We theorized that such an effect might be the result of the entire Court concentrating on one side, as opposed to evenly divided cases where the majority focuses on the side they’re voting against and the minority focuses on their opponents. We concluded that there was at least some support for the notion that margins in questions tend to be a bit bigger when the Court is unanimous. Today, we turn to the Court’s criminal docket between 2008 and 2015.
On the civil side, we saw only a minor inclination towards more lopsided questioning in unanimous cases. On the criminal side, we see no evidence for such an inclination. Unanimous cases have had a higher margin of questions four of the eight years, and non-unanimous cases have had the higher margin four of the eight years. In 2008, the average margin in questions on the unanimous side was 13.69 to only four among non-unanimous decisions. In 2009, the average margin on the unanimous side was 11.46, to 9.1 on the non-unanimous side. In 2010, the unanimous average was 13.35, to 12.36 on the non-unanimous side.
But then, we see four straight years where non-unanimous questions had the more imbalanced questioning. In 2011, non-unanimous cases had an average margin of 15.4 to 11.08 on the unanimous side. In 2012, non-unanimous cases averaged 14.2 to 9.09 on the unanimous side. In 2013, the non-unanimous average was 8.23 to 5.28 on the unanimous side. In 2014, non-unanimous cases averaged a difference of 9.14 questions, to 8.67 for unanimous decisions. Not until 2015 did the sides flip again, as unanimous cases averaged a difference of 6.85 questions to 5.0 on the non-unanimous side.
Join us back here next Tuesday as we take up another question in our continuing analysis of the Court’s oral arguments.