For the past two weeks, we’ve been taking an intensive look at the voting dynamics at the Illinois Supreme Court in civil cases. Today, we further probe our tentative conclusions by looking for swing votes on the Court. How often was each Justice in the majority when the Court was divided?
The data largely confirms our tentative conclusions based upon the agreement rates. We see a centrist group consisting of Justices Garman, Thomas and Fitzgerald, each of whom are generally in the majority in divided decisions. The data suggests that Chief Justice McMorrow and Justices Freeman and Rarick most frequently provided the fourth vote to make a Court majority.
Let’s disaggregate the data to consider some of the most frequently heard subject matter areas in the Court’s docket. Our next table tracks the fraction of the time each Justice voted in the majority in non-unanimous tort cases. Once again, Justices Garman, Thomas and Fitzgerald are frequently in the majority, with Justices Freeman and McMorrow providing a fourth vote in nine out of every ten cases:
Next, we turn to civil procedure cases. In these decisions, Justice Thomas is slightly less often in the majority of divided decisions, with the dominant voting combination consisting of Justice Garman, Chief Justice McMorrow, and Justices Freeman and Fitzgerald:
Finally, we turn to the Court’s third most frequently heard area of the law, constitutional law. Although the Court heard only a few constitutional law cases during these five years, the most frequent road to a majority in such cases appears to have been somewhat different than in other areas of the law, with Chief Justice McMorrow, Justice Freeman, Justice Rarick and Justice Fitzgerald most often in the majority.
Next week, we’ll begin our study of the voting dynamics on the Court between 2005 and 2009.