Yesterday, we addressed the data on average questions asked to each side by the Illinois Supreme Court in unanimous and non-unanimous cases. We concluded that there was no evidence that disagreement on the Court had a consistent effect in either direction on the total number of questions.
But of course, “non-unanimous” is an aggregate statistic, including 6-1 decisions. Let’s take another look at the data, this time dividing the cases according to whether there was one or no dissenters, versus more sharply divided 5-2 and 4-3 votes.
For the entire seven year period, both appellants and appellees averaged at least slightly more questions in cases where the Court was closely divided:
Once again, we turn to the year-by-year data. Although the yearly data on 2-3 dissenter cases should be read with some caution since the Court typically decides only a few closely divided civil cases each year, the numbers are once again equivocal. There is some indication that levels of questioning are drifting downwards. Appellants were asked more questions on average in unanimous and near-unanimous cases in 2008, 2011, and 2014. Appellees were asked more questions in lopsided cases than in closely divided cases in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Join us back here next week and we’ll turn to the issue addressed by most of the previous scholarship on oral arguments: does the Supreme Court ask more questions of the losing side?