Who Has Been the Bellwether Vote in Divided Criminal Cases (2004-2018)?

Last time, we began our review of the data on the criminal docket regarding how often each of the Justices voted with the majority in divided criminal cases between 1990 and 2003.  Today, we’re reviewing the years 2004 through 2018.

In Table 1001, we review the most recent data for Justices Burke, Fitzgerald, Freeman, Garman, Karmeier and Kilbride.  Justice Burke was between fifty percent and the seventies in eight of thirteen years.  Justice Burke was in the seventies once (in 2013), in the sixties three times (2007, 2012 and 2017), in the fifties four times (2008-2009, 2015 and 2018), in the forties once (2014), in the thirties once (2011), in the twenties once (2010) and between zero and twenty percent twice (2006 and 2016).  Justice Fitzgerald’s in-the-majority rate was sky-high nearly every year: 91.67% in 2004, 90.91% in 2005, 92.31% in 2006, 95.31% in 2007, 75% in 2008, 100% in 2009 and 91.67% in 2010.

Justice Freeman’s divided majority rate varied during these years but was typically between the sixties and eighties.  He was in the sixties four times (2005-2007 and 2012), in the seventies twice (2014 and 2016), and in the eighties three times (2004, 2013 and 2017).  Justice Freeman was also in the thirties twice (2010-2011), in the forties once (2009) and in the fifties twice (2008, 2015).  Justice Garman has been in the seventies three times (2014, 2017 and 2018), in the eighties six times (2004-2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015-2016), and in the nineties three times (2007, 2010 and 2012).  Justice Karmeier’s divided majority rate was 100% twice (2005 and 2012), in the nineties three times (2006, 2010 and 2013), and in the eighties four times (2009 and 2014-2016).  Justice Kilbride’s divided majority rate was all over the map: at 100% three times (2010, 2013 and 2018), in the nineties once (2011), in the eighties twice (2014 and 2015), in the seventies once (2004), in the sixties twice (2006 and 2009), in the fifties three times (2012 and 2016-2017), in the thirties once (2007) and in the twenties twice (2005 and 2008).

In Table 1002, we report the data for Justices McMorrow, Neville, Rarick, Theis and Thomas.  Justice McMorrow voted with divided majorities in 92.86% of criminal cases in 2004, 72.73% in 2005 and 45.46% during her final year of 2006.  Justice Neville voted with divided majorities in two-thirds of criminal cases last year.  Justice Rarick’s rate was 92.31% in 2004.  Justice Theis has been in the eighties four times in nine years – 2012, 2015 and 2017-2018 – and at 100% in 2010 and 2016.  Justice Thomas’ voting with divided majorities rate has generally been quite high – in the seventies twice (2008 and 2013), in the eighties three times (2012, 2015 and 2017-2018), in the nineties five times (2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012-2013 and at 100% in 2006.

Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn our attention to a new issue.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jack Wickes (no changes).

 

Who Has Been the Bellwether Vote in Divided Criminal Cases (1990-2003)?

Last week, we reviewed the data showing how often each Justice voted with the majority in a divided civil case.  This week, we’re looking at the criminal docket.

In Table 997, we review the numbers for five Justices – Bilandic, Calvo, Clark, Cunningham and Fitzgerald.  Justice Bilandic was, for the most part, between sixty and eighty percent.  His rate was 66.67% in 1991 and 62.5% in 1996; 79.17% in 1994, 75% in 1997 and 77.27% in 1998; and 81.25% in 1992 and 82.14% in 1999.  Bilandic was in the nineties once (2000); in the fifties twice (1993 and 1995); and at 100% in 1990.  Justice Calvo was in the majority in 84.62% of criminal cases in 1990 and 100% in 1991.  Justice Clark voted with the majority in 57.14% of cases in 1990 and 1991 and three-quarters in 1992.  Justice Cunningham voted with the majority in 83.33% in 1991 and 100% in 1992.  Justice Fitzgerald was closely in sync with the Court’s majority during these years – 95.65% in 2001, 86.67% in 2002 and 92.59% in 2003.

We review Justices Freeman, Garman, Harrison, Heiple and Kilbride in the next table.  Justice Freeman was in the seventies (1994, 1997, 1999-2000), eighties (1991, 1993, 1995, 2002-2003) and nineties (1998, 2001) for most of the period.  Justice Garman voted with the majority in 87.5% of divided criminal cases in 2001, 79.31% in 2002 and 85.19% in 2003.  Justice Harrison’s rate was relatively low throughout the period, with outliers only in 1996 and 1997.  He was in the fifties in 1993-1994 and 1998, in the forties from 1999 to 2001, and at 26.32% in his final year of 2002.  These years were spread evenly across a wide band for Justice Heiple.  His rate was in the fifties three times (1992, 1994 and 1999), in the sixties twice (1991 and 1995); in the seventies four times (1993, 1997-1998 and 2000) and in the eighties once (1996).  Justice Kilbride was less often in the majority than other Justices during his first three years – 60.87% in 2001, 33.33% in 2002 and 62.96% in 2003.

Between 1993 and 2003, Justice McMorrow’s rate of voting with the majority in divided criminal cases was nearly always in the 80-90% range – 1993, 1995-1996, 1999 and 2002-2003.  Her rate was in the seventies in 1998 and 2000 and in the sixties in 1994 and 1997.  Justice Miller’s majority rate was fairly low from 1990 to 1997 – in the fifties in 1990, 1992 and 1993, in the sixties in 1991, 1994 and 1997, and in the thirties in 1996.  His rate was substantially higher in his final four years however – 86.36% in 1998, 92.86% in 1999, 85.25% in 2000 and 100% in 2001.  Justice Moran was in the majority in 92.86% of divided criminal cases in 1990 and 100% in 1991 and 1992.  Justice Nickels was in the majority in 79.17% in 1994, 93.75% in 1995, 68.75% in 1996, 75% in 1997 and 77.27% in 1998.  Justice Rarick voted with the majority in 100% of divided cases in 2002 and 91.3% in 2003.

 

Finally, we review the data for Justices Rathje, Ryan, Stamos, Thomas and Ward.  Justice Rathje voted with the majority in divided criminal cases 63.16% of the time in 1999 and 90% of the time in 2000.  Justices Ryan, Stamos and Ward, who all retired from the Court in 1990, voted with the majority that year in 75%, 91.67% and 100% of divided criminal cases, respectively.  Justice Thomas joined the majority in 73.91% of divided cases in 2001, 76.67% in 2002 and only 37.04% in 2003.

 

Join us here tomorrow as we consider the years 2004 through 2018.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Adam Jones (no changes).

Who Has Been the Bellwether Vote in Divided Civil Cases (2004-2018)?

Last time, we began our examination of a new question: who has most often been a bellwether vote – a Justice who is nearly always in the majority in a divided decision – in civil cases?  Then, we reviewed the years 1990-2003.  Now, we’re taking a look at the years 2004-2018.

In Table 995, we review the first six of the eleven Justices who have participated in at least one civil case since 2004: Justices Burke, Fitzgerald, Freeman, Garman, Karmeier and Kilbride.  Justice Burke shows more variation in her numbers than most of the Justices we reviewed last time – she’s been in the fifties twice (2010, 2017), in the sixties three times (2013-2015), in the seventies twice (2007-2008), in the eighties three times (2009, 2011, 2018), and between ninety and one hundred percent – disregarding her first-year civil opinions – twice (2012, 2016).  Justice Fitzgerald was, for the most part, squarely in tune with the Court during the final years of his tenure – he voted with the majority in every divided case in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010, and did so ninety percent of the time in 2006.  Justice Freeman voted with the majority between seventy and ninety percent of the time for the most part, with a few dips under that trend (55.56% in 2010, 2011 and 2015, and fifty percent in 2017).  Justice Garman’s numbers were similar from 2004 to 2012, but there is some evidence her rate may be edging up in recent years: 92.86% in 2013, 100% in 2015 and 2017, 87.5% in 2018.  Although current Chief Justice Karmeier’s rate was comparatively low in three of his first four full years – 42.86% in 2007, 66.67% in 2008 and 42.86% in 2009, since that time he too has generally been between seventy and ninety percent.  For the most part, Justice Kilbride was less likely to be in the majority of a divided decision than the other Justices in this table.  He voted with the majority in only a third of divided civil decisions in 2015, was in the forties five times (2004, 2008, 2011-2013) and in the fifties three times (2005, 2014, 2017).  Justice Kilbride joined the majority 62.5% of the time in 2007 and 2018, and 66.67% in 2010.  He voted with the majority 71.43% of the time in 2009 and 2016 and reached a high of 80% in 2006.

In Table 996, we review the data for the final five Justices who served during these years: McMorrow, Neville, Rarick, Theis and Thomas.  Justice McMorrow’s majority rate was 71.43% in 2004, 88.89% in 2005 and 69.23% in 2006.  The Court’s newest member Justice Neville voted with the majority in all of the divided civil cases he participated in last year.  In 2004, Justice Rarick (in his final year on the Court) voted with the majority in fifty percent of the divided civil cases.  Justice Theis has been in line with the majority for most of her years on the Court: in the eighties four times (2011-2012, 2016 and 2018), in the seventies twice (2015 and 2017) and in the nineties and sixties once each (2013 and 2014, respectively).  Although it has dipped slightly in the past few years, Justice Thomas’ majority rate was between eighty and one hundred percent each year between 2004 and 2011, 2013-2015 and 2018.  His lowest majority rates were 75% in 2012, 71.43% in 2016 and 75% in 2017.

Join us next Tuesday as we turn our attention to the same metric for the criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by AuntJoJo (no changes).

 

 

 

Who Has Been the Bellwether Vote in Divided Civil Cases (1990-2003)?

On the vast majority of appellate courts, there are one or two Justices of whom appellate specialists say “they’re the votes you’ve got to have” – or alternatively, “lose those votes and you’re hurting.”  No matter the case, those Justices nearly always seem to be in the majority.  There can be at least a couple of reasons for this, of course: either the Justice is well aligned with the majority philosophy on the Court, or a Justice is so persuasive among his or her other Justices that she or he can usually assemble a majority for the Justice’s preferred outcome during the Court’s deliberations.

So who have been the bellwether votes on the Illinois Supreme Court since 1990?  This week, we’ll review the civil cases.  A few ground rules: in order to keep the math relatively simple, a Justice is defined as being in the majority if he or she agrees with the judgment – even if the Justice files a concurrence saying “I agree with the result, but not with any of the majority’s reasoning.”  Second, in order to avoid making these numbers artificially high (since the Court is typically unanimous in anywhere from 55 to 75% of its cases), we limit the data to non-unanimous decisions.  Third, “civil” cases are defined (as usual with our data) to exclude quasi-criminal matters which are technically civil proceedings, such as habeas corpus and juvenile justice.  And a reminder – a Justice’s first or last year on the Court is not necessarily indicative of anything, since that number is typically based on a relatively few number of cases that Justice participated in.  Because we’re trying to answer a question about the individual Justices as opposed to the evolution of the Court, contrary to our usual practice, we arrange the tables by Justice to make it easier to see trends.

In Table 991, we review the data for the first five of the twenty Justices who served between 1990 and 2003: Bilandic, Calvo, Clark, Cunningham and Fitzgerald.  Justice Bilandic typically voted with the majority in between sixty-five and eighty percent of divided civil cases during these years.  His high came in 1991 – ninety percent – and his low was only two years later, 66.67%.  Justice Calvo voted with the majority in 63.16% of divided civil cases in 1990.  Justice Clark was typically in the majority in divided civil cases between seventy and eighty percent of the time.  In his two years on the Court, Justice Cunningham voted with the majority ninety percent or more of the time.  Joining the Court towards the end of this period, Justice Fitzgerald was in the majority in divided civil cases over ninety percent of the time two of three years.

In our next table, we review the numbers for Justices Freeman, Garman, Harrison, Heiple and Kilbride.  Aside from a one-year dip in 2001, Justice Freeman’s rate was consistent across the board, ranging from three-quarters to just short of 90%.  In her first three years, Justice Garman was in the majority of divided civil cases in 81.82%, 68.75% and fifty percent of cases.  Justice Harrison, on the other hand, was typically in the majority of such cases less often – between fifty and sixty percent for the most part (with a low of 28.57% in 1999).   After some variation in the years 1990 to 1992, Justice Heiple was generally in the majority between seventy and eighty percent of the time in divided civil cases.  Justice Kilbride voted in his first civil case in 2001, and joined the majority in divided cases 61.54%, 68.75% and fifty percent of the time.

In Table 993, we address Justices McMorrow, Miller, Moran, Nickels and Rarick.  Although Justice McMorrow was in the majority of divided cases between eighty and ninety-three percent of the time for the years 1998 to 2000, as a general rule, she was in the majority between seventy and eighty percent of the time.  Justice Miller’s rate showed an unusual level of variance: two years in the sixties (1991-1992), four years in the seventies (1990, 1993, 1995, 1997), three years in the eighties (1996, 1999-2000) and three years between ninety and one hundred percent (1994, 1998, 2001).  Justice Moran’s rate varied only around a three-point band, from 89.47% in 1990 to 92.31% the following year.  Justice Nickels generally voted with the majority in divided cases between seventy and eighty-five percent of the time.  Justice Rarick, who voted in his first civil case in 2002, was with the majority 100% of the time that year and 90% the next.

Finally, we review the numbers for Justices Rathje, Ryan, Stamos, Thomas and Ward.  Justices Ryan, Stamos and Ward all voted in their final divided civil cases in 1990, joining the majority in 70.59%, 81.25% and 76.47% of those cases, respectively.  Justice Rathje joined the majority 85% of the time in 1999 and 78.57% in 2000.  In his first three years on the Court, Justice Thomas voted with the majority in 83.33%, 76.47% and 71.43% of divided cases.

Join us here next time as we review the data for the years 2004 through 2018.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Doug Kerr (no changes).

Who Wrote the Longest Majority Opinions in Criminal Cases Each Year Since 1990 (Part 2)?

Last time, we reviewed the data on the distribution of majority opinions in criminal cases from 1990 to 2018.  This time, we’re reviewing the lengths of each Justice’s majorities.

In 1990, Justice Stamos led at 35.83 pages, and Justice Calvo averaged 31 pages.  Chief Justice Moran averaged 17.2 pages.  In 1991, Justice Cunningham averaged 46 pages, while Justice Calvo averaged 11 pages.  In 1992, Justice Moran averaged 34.23 pages, while Justice Heiple averaged 13.1 pages.  In 1993, Justice Freeman wrote the longest opinions at 29.67 pages.  Justice McMorrow averaged 11.  In 1994, Justice McMorrow averaged 31.67 pages, while Justice Harrison averaged 12 pages.  In 1995, Justice Freeman led with 29 pages, while Justice Heiple wrote the shortest opinions at 14 pages.  In 1996, Justice Miller wrote the longest majorities – 36 pages.  Justice Heiple averaged 15.67 pages.

In 1997, Justice McMorrow averaged the longest majorities – 30.2 pages.  Justice Heiple averaged 10.22 pages.  In 1998, Chief Justice Bilandic averaged 26.22 pages, while Justice Heiple averaged only 7.5 pages.  In 1999, Justice McMorrow averaged 28.43 pages, while Justices Heiple and Harrison were both in single digits – 8.56 pages and five.  In 2000, Justice McMorrow averaged 31.13 pages and Chief Justice Bilandic averaged 25.36 pages, while four Justices averaged under twenty – Rathje (14.92), Heiple (13.57), Harrison (12.67) and Miller (11.7).  In 2001, majority opinions were quite short – Chief Justice Freeman led, averaging twenty pages.  Justices Fitzgerald, Garman, McMorrow, Miller and Thomas averaged between ten and twenty, and Justice Kilbride and Harrison were in single digits – nine and 5.8 pages, respectively.  In 2002, Justices Garman and McMorrow led, averaging 23.11 and 23.09 pages.  New Justice Rarick averaged thirteen pages, while retiring Justice Harrison averaged three.  In 2003, every Justice but two averaged between ten and twenty pages, with Justice Freeman leading at 18.43.  Justice Rarick averaged five pages.

Between 2004 and 2010, the expected length of the Court’s majority opinions in criminal cases depended on which Justice was writing.  In 2004, Chief Justice McMorrow averaged the longest majorities at 25.29 pages, while Justice Garman averaged only 10.44.  In 2005, Justice Karmeier averaged 27 pages, while Justice Kilbride averaged 13.25.  In 2006, Justice Fitzgerald averaged 24.2 pages, while new Justice Burke averaged ten.  In 2007, Justice Garman averaged the longest opinions – 26.25 pages.  Justice Kilbride averaged 9.5 pages.  In 2008, the entire Court was under twenty pages, with Justice Freeman leading (18 pages) and Justice Karmeier shortest at 13.13 pages.  In 2009, Justice Karmeier averaged 24.33 pages, while Justice Burke averaged only 11.71 pages.  In 2010, Justice Garman’s majorities averaged 30.22 pages.  Justice Burke’s averaged 10.5 pages.

In 2011, Justice Garman averaged the longest criminal majority opinions at 21 pages, while Justice Burke averaged nine.  In 2012, Justice Garman once again led at 16.14 pages and Justice Freeman averaged 7.5 pages.  In 2013, Justice Theis’s majorities averaged 13.14 pages, but that led the Court.  Chief Justice Kilbride (nine pages) and Justices Karmeier (eight), Freeman (eight) and Thomas (6.33) were all under ten pages.  In 2014, Justice Karmeier’s majorities averaged 15.75 pages, while four Justices – Thomas, Theis, Freeman and Burke – averaged the shortest opinions, all between nine and ten.  In 2015, only Justice Thomas was over ten pages, leading at 11.67.  Justice Freeman’s criminal majority opinions averaged only 5.5 pages.  In 2016, Chief Justice Garman led at 12.43 pages, with Justice Freeman at 12.2.  Justice Burke’s majorities were the shortest at 7.4 pages.  In 2017, average length ticked up a bit.  Justice Theis’ average majority was 22.29 pages.  With every Justice in double digits, Justice Burke was shortest at 11.83 pages.  Last year, Justice Thomas averaged the longest criminal majority opinions at 24 pages.  Justice Freeman was shortest prior to his retirement, averaging 10.5 pages.

Join us back here next time as we turn our attention to a new topic.

Image courtesy of Flickr by spablab (no changes).

Who Wrote the Longest Majority Opinions in Criminal Cases Each Year Since 1990 (Part 1)?

Over the past two weeks, we’ve reviewed the data on the distribution of the Court’s majority opinions in civil cases, and which Justice wrote the longest and shortest majorities each year.  Today, we’re reviewing the data in criminal cases.

In our first table, we review the data for 1990 to 1996.  In 1990, Justice Stamos wrote twelve majority opinions in criminal cases, followed by Justices Calvo, Miller, Ryan and Ward with eleven each.  Chief Justice Moran wrote five.  In 1991, Justice Clark wrote fourteen majorities and Justice Moran wrote eleven.  Justice Calvo wrote one prior to his passing in June.  In 1992, Justice Cunningham wrote sixteen majorities, Justice Clark wrote fourteen and Justices Charles Freeman and Thomas Moran wrote thirteen.  Justice Bilandic wrote eight.  In 1993, Justice Heiple wrote eight majority opinions and Justice Bilandic wrote seven.  Justice McMorrow wrote two.  In 1994, Chief Justice Bilandic led with twelve majority opinions and Justice Freeman wrote eleven.  Justice Nickels wrote four.  In 1995, Justice Nickels wrote thirteen opinions, and Justices Heiple, McMorrow and Miller wrote a dozen each.  Justice Harrison wrote six.  In 1996, Justices Freeman and Miller wrote ten majority opinions, and Chief Justice Bilandic wrote nine.  Justice Nickels wrote two.

In 1997, Justices Nickels and Harrison led with ten majority opinions each.  Justice Heiple wrote nine.  Chief Justice Freeman wrote four.  In 1998, Justice McMorrow led with fourteen majorities.  Justice Heiple wrote four.  In 1999, Justice Heiple led with nine majority opinions.  Justice Harrison wrote four.  In 2000, Justice Heiple once again led, writing fourteen majority opinions in criminal cases.  Justice McMorrow wrote seven.  In 2001, Justice McMorrow led with sixteen majority opinions to Justice Freeman’s twelve.  New Justices Garman and Kilbride wrote four and two, respectively.  In 2002, Justices Fitzgerald and Thomas led with thirteen majority opinions.  Retiring Chief Justice Harrison and new Justice Rarick wrote one apiece.  In 2003, Justice Fitzgerald wrote thirteen majority opinions to Justice McMorrow’s eleven.  Justice Kilbride wrote three.

In Table 983, we total up the leaders in majority opinions for the entire period 1990 to 2003.  The overall leaders were Justices Freeman (114), Miller (103) and McMorrow (100).  Justices Heiple and BIlandic wrote 87 and 85.  The lowest totals, of course, were by the Justices who either left the Court shortly after the beginning of our period in 1990, or joined only shortly before 2003 – Calvo (12), Cunningham (18), Kilbride (14), Rarick (6), Rathje (18), Stamos (12) Ryan and Ward (11 each).

In 2004, Justice Rarick led the Court with ten majority opinions in criminal cases.  Justices Thomas and Garman wrote nine each. Chief Justice McMorrow and Justice Freeman wrote seven apiece.  In 2005, Chief Justice McMorrow and Justices Freeman and Thomas wrote nine majority opinions apiece, while Justices Fitzgerald, Garman and Karmeier wrote seven apiece.  In 2006, Justice Fitzgerald wrote ten majority opinions, while new Justice Burke wrote one.  In 2007, Justice Freeman wrote five majorities and Justice Fitzgerald wrote two.  In 2008, Justices Burke, Garman and Karmeier wrote eight majority opinions each.  Justice Kilbride wrote two.  In 2009, majority opinions on the criminal side were almost evenly distributed – Justices Burke, Fitzgerald, Freeman, Garman and Kilbride wrote seven each.  Chief Justice Thomas and Justice Karmeier wrote six apiece.  In 2010, Justice Kilbride wrote a dozen majority opinions.  Chief Justice Fitzgerald and Justice Freeman wrote four each.

In 2011, Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Karmeier and Freeman wrote seven majority opinions each.  Justice Theis wrote five.  In 2012, Justices Burke, Garman and Theis led with seven majority opinions apiece.  Chief Justice Kilbride and Justice Freeman wrote two.  In 2013, Justices Karmeier and Theis led with seven majority opinions, while Chief Justice Kilbride wrote two.  In 2014, Chief Justice Garman led with seven majorities.  Justice Burke wrote one.  In 2015, Justice Thomas wrote six majority opinions, while Chief Justice Kilbride, Burke and Theis wrote five apiece. In 2016, Chief Justice Garman again led with seven majority opinions.  Justice Theis wrote three.  In 2017, Justice Theis led, writing seven majority opinions in criminal cases.  Justice Thomas wrote three.  Finally, last year, Chief Justice Karmeier led, writing five majority opinions.  Justice Freeman wrote two prior to his retirement.

Below, we total up the opinions for the entire period of 2004 to 2018.  Justice Garman wrote ninety-seven opinions.  Justices Thomas, Freeman and Kilbride wrote 88, 81 and 81, respectively.  Chief Justice Karmeier has written seven-nine.  Justice McMorrow, Rarick and new Justice Neville have written 19, 10 and 3, respectively.

Join us next time as we review the data on the length of the Justices’ opinions.

Image courtesy of Flickr by NaturesFan (no changes).

 

 

Who Wrote the Longest Majority Opinions in Civil Cases (Part 2)?

Yesterday, we began reviewing the Justice-by-Justice data for majority opinions in civil cases, beginning with the total number of majorities written each year.  Today, we’re looking at the average length of each Justice’s majority opinions in civil cases.

In 1990, Justice Stamos averaged 25.8 pages per majority opinion, while Chief Justice Moran averaged 10.4 pages.  In 1991, Justice Cunningham averaged 23.75 pages per majority, while Justice Heiple averaged 5.24 pages.  In 1992, Justice Freeman averaged 22 pages, while Justice Heiple averaged 9.7 pages.  In 1993, Justice Nickels averaged 23.75 pages; Chief Justice Miller averaged 11.67 pages.  In 1994, Justice McMorrow averaged 18.36 pages per majority opinion, while Justice Heiple was the shortest at 7.92 pages.  In 1995, Chief Justice Bilandic averaged 17.11 pages (we’re omitting for these purposes a single per curiam opinion of 34 pages), and Justice Miller wrote the shortest majorities at 13.5 pages.  In 1996, Justice Freeman wrote the longest opinions at 25.33 pages, while Justices Harrison and Heiple tied at 13.22 pages.  In 1997, Justice McMorrow wrote the longest opinions at 22.5 pages, while Justice Heiple averaged 7.18 pages.

In 1998, Justice McMorrow averaged the longest majority opinions in civil cases at 16.8 pages, while Justice Heiple averaged 7.27 pages.  In 1999, Justice Bilandic’s majorities averaged 20.13 pages to Justice Harrison at 6.75 pages.  In 2000, Justice McMorrow averaged 21.4 pages.  Justice Heiple averaged 6 pages.  In 2001, Justice McMorrow averaged 19.27 pages.  Justice Miller averaged 9.67 pages.  In 2002, Chief Justice Freeman’s majorities averaged 19.57 pages, while Justice Harrison’s averaged 10.25.  In 2003, Justice McMorrow averaged 20.86 pages and Justice Garman averaged 11 pages.  In 2004, the longest majorities were Justice Garman’s at 21.13 pages.  Justice Rarick’s were the shortest at 12.22 pages.

In 2005, Chief Justice McMorrow averaged the longest majority opinions in civil cases at 30.29 pages.  Justice Fitzgerald wrote the shortest opinions at 14.75 pages.  In 2006, Justice Karmeier averaged 28.7 page majorities, while Justice Kilbride averaged 14.5 pages.  In 2007, Chief Justice Thomas averaged 23.75 pages, while Justice Burke averaged 16.33 pages.  In 2008, Justice Fitzgerald averaged the longest majority opinions in civil cases at 19.8 pages.  Justice Burke averaged 13 pages.  In 2009, Justice Thomas averaged 28 pages.  Justice Karmeier averaged 12.43 pages.  In 2010, Justice Garman averaged 21.33 pages to 12.17 for Justice Burke.  In 2011, Justice Garman averaged 15.83 page majority opinions, while Chief Justice Kilbride averaged nine pages.

In 2012, Justice Theis wrote the longest majorities at 15 pages, while Justice Freeman averaged 8.43.  In 2013, Chief Justice Kilbride average 15 pages.  Justice Freeman averaged 8.  In 2014, Justice Thomas averaged 11.6 pages per majority opinion.  Justice Karmeier averaged 7 pages.  In 2015, Justice Karmeier wrote the longest majorities at 12.55 pages, while Justice Theis averaged 8.57 pages.  In 2016, Justice Freeman averaged 16 pages.  Justice Burke averaged 8.67 pages.  In 2017, Chief Justice Karmeier averaged 19.25 pages.  Justice Burke averaged 10.83 pages.  Last year, Justice Freeman averaged twenty pages per majority.  Chief Justice Karmeier averaged 13 pages per majority.

Join us back here next Tuesday as we begin examining the Court’s criminal opinions.

Image courtesy of Flickr by USFWS Midwest Region & Sarah Morgan (no changes).

Who Wrote the Longest Majority Opinions in Civil Cases (Part 1)?

For the past several weeks, we’ve been looking for insights into the Court’s decision-making processes by reviewing the data for the length of the Court’s opinions.  This week and next, we’re looking at a related question: which Justices tended to write the longest and shortest majority opinions.  This week, the civil side.  We’ll take the question in two steps: first, who wrote the most and fewest majorities year by year, so we can identify the deceptive averages which are based on fewer total opinions.  Keep in mind, these numbers can be influenced by several different factors: the desire to equalize the chambers’ workloads, individual Justices’ seniority, and how often a Justice is actually in the majority (after all, a Justice can hardly be assigned the majority opinion when she or he is voting in the minority).  Then, we’ll look at average length.

In Table 971, we report the data for majority opinions in civil cases written by each Justice from 1990 to 1997.  In 1990, the most prolific writer was Justice Miller with sixteen civil opinions, the least was Chief Justice Moran was 5.  In 1991, the highest number was Chief Justice Moran and Justice Clark with ten each, and the lowest was Justice Calvo, who passed away in June, having written only one civil majority that year.  In 1992, the highest load of civil majorities was by Justice Cunningham with sixteen.  The lowest was Chief Justice Miller.  In 1993, Justices Freeman and Heiple wrote nine civil majorities while Chief Justice Miller wrote three.  In 1994, Justice Nickels led with fourteen majority opinions, while Chief Justice Miller – who was replaced as Chief by Justice Bilandic in the fall – wrote seven.  In 1995, Justice McMorrow led with eleven civil majorities to five written by Justice Nickels.  In 1996, Chief Justice Bilandic led with ten majorities opinions to five for Justice Miller.  In 1997, Justice Freeman, who replaced Justice Bilandic as Chief Justice in the fall, and Justice Heiple led with eleven civil majorities each, and Justice Nickels wrote the fewest with five.

In Table 972, we review the yearly data for the years 1998 through 2004.  In 1998, Justice Ward led, writing fourteen civil majorities.  Justices Bilandic and Harrison wrote eight apiece.  The following year, Justice Bilandic led with eight majority opinions, Justice Harrison wrote four.  In 2000, Justices Bilandic, Harrison and Miller wrote seven civil majorities each, and Chief Justice Freeman, who was succeeded in that post in the fall by Justice Harrison, wrote three.  In 2001, Justice McMorrow wrote eleven majority opinions while Justice Kilbride wrote two.  In 2002, Justice Kilbride led the Court, writing ten majority opinions in civil cases, while Chief Justice Harrison wrote four.  In 2003, Justices Freeman and Kilbride led with eight majority opinions, while Justice Fitzgerald wrote four.  In 2004, Justices Fitzgerald and Rarick wrote nine majority opinions apiece, while Chief Justice McMorrow and Justice Thomas wrote five each.

In Table 973, we review the overall data for the period – who was the most prolific writer?  During these years, Justice Freeman most often wrote for the Court in civil cases, with 112 majority opinions.   Justices Bilandic, McMorrow, Heiple and Miller were next, writing 89, 89, 87 and 87 majorities, respectively.  Justice Harrison was next with sixty-five majority opinions.

In Table 974, we review the yearly data for the years 2005 to 2011.  In 2005, Justice Garman led with nine civil opinions, while Justice Fitzgerald wrote four.  In 2006, Justices Fitzgerald and Karmeier wrote ten majority opinions in civil cases to four for Justice Kilbride and Justice Burke, appointed in mid-year, wrote one.  In 2007, Justice Fitzgerald wrote nine majority opinions, while Chief Justice Thomas and Justices Garman, Karmeier and Kilbride wrote four each.  In 2008, Justice Freeman led with eight majority opinion, and Justice Karmeier wrote four.  In 2009, Justice Garman led with eight majorities and Justice Thomas wrote three.  In 2010, Justice Karmeier led with eight majority opinions to two for Justice Kilbride.  In 2011, Justices Thomas and Burke wrote seven majority opinions each.  Chief Justice Kilbride wrote one.

In 2012, Justice Freeman led with seven civil majorities.  Chief Justice Kilbride wrote four.  In 2013, Justices Burke and Karmeier wrote seven majorities, while Chief Justice Kilbride and Justice Freeman wrote two.   In 2014, Justice Burke wrote six majorities, while Justices Kilbride, Freeman and Karmeier wrote three apiece.  In 2015, Justice Karmeier wrote nine civil majority opinions, and Chief Justice Garman wrote three.  In 2016, Justices Freeman, Kilbride and Theis wrote five majority opinions apiece, while Chief Justice Garman wrote two.  In 2017, Justices Burke led with six majority opinions, while Justices Freeman and Kilbride wrote one apiece.  Last year, Justice Thomas wrote five majority opinions, while Justice Theis wrote one.

In Table 976, we report the overall data for the years 2005 through 2018.  Justice Karmeier is narrowly the most prolific author for the Court in civil cases with seventy-seven.  Justice Thomas wrote seventy-five, Justice Garman seventy and Justice Burke has written sixty-nine.  Justice Neville, who joined the Court in 2018, wrote two majority opinions in civil cases before the end of the year.  Former Chief Justice Fitzgerald wrote thirty-nine and his successor, Justice Theis, has written thirty-eight.

Join us back here tomorrow as we take the second step in our analysis – who wrote the longest majority opinions?

Image courtesy of Flickr by Giuseppe Milo (no changes).

 

Does It Take More Pages to Reverse Than to Affirm in Criminal Cases (2004-2018)?

Yesterday, we showed that in contrast to our result in civil cases, when majority opinions reversing tended most years to be longer than majority opinions affirming, the opposite was generally true in criminal cases – between 1990 and 2003, affirmances were longer.  Today, we’re looking at the years 2004 to 2018.

In 2004, reversals were longer – 15.65 pages to 14.8.  In 2005, affirmances were narrowly longer, 17.13 to 17.12 pages.  In 2006, affirmances were 21.38 pages to 17.15 pages for reversals.  In 2007, affirmances averaged 25.5 pages and reversals averaged 17.75 pages.  In 2008, reversals were longer – 16.58 pages to 14.76.  In 2009, reversals averaged 18.12 pages to 16.48 for affirmances.  IN 2010, affirmances averaged 18.63 pages and reversals averaged 14.76.

In 2011, affirmances averaged 15.67 pages to 11.42 for reversals.  In 2012, affirmances averaged 14.27 pages.  Reversals were 9.47 pages.  IN 2013, reversals averaged 10.74 pages.  Affirmances averaged 9.8 pages.  In 2014, reversals averaged 12.07 pages and affirmances were 9.85.  In 2015, reversals averaged 9.39 pages and affirmances averaged 8.7 pages.  In 2016, affirmances averaged 12.83 pages and reversals averaged 9.87 pages.  In 2017, affirmances averaged 17.69 pages and reversals were 17.06 pages.  Last year, affirmances averaged 18 pages and reversals averaged 14.22.

Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn to a new topic.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Heather Paul (no changes).

Does It Take More Pages to Reverse Than to Affirm in Criminal Cases (1990-2003)?

Last time, we took our first look at a new question: do majority opinions in civil cases tend to be longer when the Court reverses than when it affirms?  The answer, for a substantial majority of years, was yes.  So today and tomorrow, we’re looking at the flipside: are reversals longer in criminal cases too?  The surprising answer is an emphatic “no.”

Between 1990 and 1996, reversals in criminal cases had longer majority opinions than affirmances only twice. In 1990, reversals averaged 26.82 pages, while affirmances were, on average, 24.72 pages.  In 1991, affirmances were 26.76 pages, while reversals averaged only 18.29 pages.  In 1992, affirmances averaged 30.34 pages, while reversals were 23.12 pages.  In 1993, affirmances averaged 26.19 pages, while reversals averaged 17.63 pages.  In 1994, reversals averaged 21.26 pages and affirmances averaged 20.84 pages.  In 1995, affirmances averaged 25.51 pages.  Reversals that year averaged 16.89 pages.  In 1996, affirmances were 26.4 pages to 25.82 for reversals.

Between 1997 and 2003, reversals were longer than affirmances in only one of seven years.  In 1997, affirmances averaged 16.18 pages to 16.17 pages for reversals.  In 1998, affirmances were 19.91 pages.  Reversals averaged 16.79 pages.  In 1999, affirmances averaged 15.78 pages and reversals averaged 12.82 pages.  In 2000, affirmances averaged 22.27 pages and reversals averaged 15.19 pages.  In 2001, affirmances averaged 17.13 pages and reversals were 15.5.  In 2002, reversals were 16.82 pages.  Affirmances averaged 15.57 pages.  In 2003, affirmances averaged 14.7 pages and reversals were 14.62 pages.

Join us back here tomorrow as we review the years 2004 to 2018.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Heather Paul (no changes).

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