As we discussed a few weeks ago, the academic literature on question patterns in appellate oral argument has consistently shown that the losing party tends to get more questions. We’ve shown that that result also holds for the Illinois Supreme Court’s civil caseload, considered as a whole, between 2008 and 2014.
Today, we continue our investigation by looking at the data in a slightly different way: does the margin between questions to one side and the other depend more closely on the result (whether the case is affirmed or reversed) or the voting margin?
The expected relationship, with losing parties receiving more questions on average, often does not hold in cases where the Court reverses. Winners received more questions in unanimous or one-dissenter reversals in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Winners received more questions in 2 to 3-dissenter reversals in each year since 2008. Nor is there any consistent relationship between the margin on unanimous and one-dissenter reversals, as opposed to two- and three-dissenter reversals. Interestingly, there is some indication that total questions are declining at least slightly in reversals over the entire seven-year period:
On the other hand, losing parties do tend to get the most questions when the Court affirms. Losing parties averaged more questions in unanimous and one-dissenter affirmances in every year between 2008 and 2014. Similarly, losing parties averaged more questions in two-and three-dissenter affirmances in each year between 2009 and 2013. The difference in questions to losing and winning parties have been relatively constant each year during the period:
Tomorrow, we continue our investigation by looking at the cases in which the winning party received the most questions from the Court.