For the past few weeks, we’ve been studying the Illinois Supreme Court’s oral arguments between 2008 and 2016. This week, we address a new question: is there a correlation between the result – reversal or affirmance – and the total number of questions? Or to put it in less mathematical language, does an active bench at oral argument mean that the Court is likely to reverse?
In Table 441, we report the average questions to appellants, to appellees, and total to both sides in civil cases, divided by affirmances and reversals. We see that the answer to our initial question is yes – although the effect isn’t dramatic, all other things being equal, a more active bench suggests a reversal. On both sides, we see the result we identified a few weeks ago: the loser gets more questions. Our data consists of 118 affirmances and 177 reversals in civil cases since 2008. In affirmances, appellants have averaged 18.21 questions to only 8.773 for appellees. For reversals, there’s only a slight difference between the sides: appellees average 14.994 questions to 14.612 for appellants. In civil affirmances, the Court has averaged 26.899 questions, as compared to 29.624 in reversals.
Questions to appellants are about equally scattered, regardless of whether there’s an affirmance or reversal. The standard deviation of the calculation for appellants in affirmances is 9.54 to 9.63 in reversals. But for appellees, there was a difference. The standard deviation for appellees in reversals was 9.07 to 6.14 for appellees. As a result of that, total questions in reversals were more variable than affirmances – the standard deviation for reversals was 15.7 to 12.18 for affirmances.
Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s oral arguments in criminal, quasi-criminal, juvenile and disciplinary cases since 2008.