Yesterday, we reviewed the record-holders from the last seven years of oral arguments at the Illinois Supreme Court: most and least total questions, most and least questions for appellants and appellees, and so on.
Today, we turn to an entirely different question: what’s the likelihood that the first question came from the author of the majority opinion?
As a baseline, keep in mind that the likelihood of an entirely random Justice asking the first question is 14.29% – one in seven. Of course, that assumes that each Justice is equally likely to ask the first question. As we’ll begin discussing in a few weeks, that’s clearly not true.
Still, for many of the possible combinations over the years, the likelihood of the first question coming from the author of the majority opinion is significantly over the random selection number. For example, in 2011, more than four of every ten first questions to the losing appellee came from the author of the majority opinion. In 2012, approximately one in every three first questions to each party came from the author of the majority. In 2014, first questions for about one third of the winning parties came from the Justice who later wrote for the Court. On the other hand, only a few years earlier in 2010, only about one in every ten first questions came from the author of the majority opinion.
Next week we’ll expand our analysis to a related question – how likely is it that the first question came from a Justice who is writing something – the majority opinion, a special concurrence or a dissent?