Now we turn to the records of the individual Justices. Having addressed the trends in the length of the Court’s opinions, we turn now to the Justices’ writing. Have certain Justices, on average, tended to write longer opinions than other members of the Court? Because each Justice writes between four and eight civil majority opinions each year, and even fewer special concurrences and dissents, we once again report floating three-year averages in order to ensure that random variations do not cause exaggerated changes in the statistics.
Between 2000 and 2004, the Justices’ writing patterns were similar. During this initial five years, Chief Justice Mary Ann McMorrow and Justice Charles Freeman wrote the largest number of opinions, followed by Justice Thomas Kilbride and Justice Thomas Fitzgerald, and then Justices Robert Thomas and Justice Rita Garman.
Chief Justice Mary Ann McMorrow wrote somewhat longer opinions than her colleagues, but this is not necessarily surprising, since the Chief Justice traditionally tends to take responsibility for the most highly publicized cases. Several of the Justices who left the Court during these early years show a shorter mean opinion length, but as noted above, these Justices’ averages are based on fewer opinions. Justices Garman, Freeman and Thomas, each of whom joined the Court during this era, began their tenures writing opinions of similar length.
Tomorrow, we turn to special concurrences in civil cases between 2000 and 2004.
Update: Our thanks to an alert reader who spotted an omission in an earlier version of the post, which has now been corrected.