Last week, we looked at whether the Appellate Court district from which an appeal arises affects the overall level of questions at oral argument before the Illinois Supreme Court. Today, we begin a new phase of our analysis, turning to the individual Justices’ question patterns.
We start with the most basic question of all: which Justices ask the most and fewest questions? As shown by Table 61 below, Justice Thomas is the most active questioner on the Court in civil cases by a significant margin. Although Justice Burke is the second most active individual questioner, this would be somewhat misleading. Given that Justices Fitzgerald and Theis served only parts of the seven year study period – Justice Theis took over Justice Fitzgerald’s seat in 2010 – one might argue that the second most active seat on the Court in terms of oral argument is the Fitzgerald-Theis seat. Those two Justices collectively asked 1,231 questions during the seven year period. After Justice Burke at 909 questions comes Chief Justice Garman at 897, followed by Justices Freeman (701), Karmeier (643) and Kilbride (604).
Now let’s begin to drill down on these aggregate numbers, dividing the Justices’ total questions by the three segments of the argument – appellant, appellee and rebuttal. Justice Thomas is the most active questioner of appellants, but by not so wide a margin as the aggregate table above – Justices Fitzgerald and Theis have asked 641 questions of appellants to Justice Thomas’ 897. Justices Burke and Freeman are next at 431 and 408 questions, respectively.
The difference is far greater with respect to appellees, however. Justice Thomas has asked 1016 questions of appellees, and Chief Justice Garman is in second place with 460 questions. Justices Fitzgerald and Theis collectively have asked 456 questions of appellees, and the numbers drop off significantly across the rest of the Court. Interestingly, Justice Kilbride, the least active questioner in the aggregate numbers shown in Table 61, is the third most active questioner during rebuttal, only slightly behind the 134 questions asked collectively by Justices Fitzgerald and Theis.
Tomorrow, we’ll address the average per-case data by individual Justice, as well as beginning to review the year-by-year totals.