Last week, we began our analysis of the individual Justices’ questioning patterns in oral arguments at the Illinois Supreme Court by looking at the Justices’ total questions, and average questions for each of the three segments of the argument. Today, we ask a related question – how likely is each Justice to ask the first question in each segment?
Not surprisingly (given the overall data), the most likely first questioner in all three segments of oral argument on the court for the entire seven year period is Justice Thomas. However, after Justice Thomas the data contains some surprises. As we noted last week, Justice Fitzgerald and his successor, Justice Theis, have been the second most active questioners on the Court. However, both Justices were less likely to be the first questioner than that data might lead one to expect. Behind Justice Thomas, the second most frequent lead-off questioner for appellants is Justice Freeman. Behind him, we see Justice Burke and Chief Justice Garman. Justices Karmeier, Fitzgerald and Theis are well behind the Chief Justice.
For appellees, once again Justice Thomas leads, having asked the first question ninety times. This time, the Chief Justice ranks second at 36. Tightly bunched behind the Chief are Justices Burke (29), Freeman (27) and Karmeier (23).
Rebuttals are interesting as well. Behind Justice Thomas in the third segment of the argument is Justice Karmeier, the first questioner in 23 rebuttals. Most of the rest of the Court is bunched behind Justice Karmeier – Justice Fitzgerald (17), Justice Theis (14), Justice Kilbride (14) and Justice Burke (11). Only Justice Freeman seldom leads off the questioning during rebuttal, with five “firsts.”
Let’s assess the numbers a second time, taking into account the number of arguments in which each Justice has participated. The data in Table 66 is the percentage of each Justice’s total arguments in which he or she has asked the first question in each segment. These numbers don’t add up to 100% reading from left to right for a couple of reasons – we’re using the individual Justices’ arguments as the divisor rather than the total number of cases, and not infrequently, the Court hears argument from multiple lawyers on a given side. In our coding, when there are multiple appellants or appellees, we code a “first question” for each attorney.
Behind Justice Thomas, we see that Justice Freeman asks the appellant the first question in just over 22% of his arguments. Next, Justice Burke asks the appellant the first question in 18.58% of her arguments, and the Chief Justice leads off the questioning of the appellant 15% of the time. The least likely first questioners of appellants are Justice Karmeier – 5.6% of the arguments he’s participated in – and Justice Kilbride, who leads off with the appellants in only 2.67% of his arguments.
The pattern among appellees’ arguments is similar. Justice Thomas has asked the first questions of appellees in 39.13% of his arguments. The Chief Justice is the second most likely first questioner, asking the first question in 15.45% of her arguments. Justices Burke, Fitzgerald and Freeman are next, followed by Justices Karmeier, Theis and Kilbride.
Finally, Justice Thomas was the first questioner in rebuttals in nearly thirty percent of his arguments. Justice Fitzgerald is next, followed by Justice Theis, Justice Karmeier, Justice Kilbride and the Chief Justice.
Tomorrow, we’ll start reviewing the year-by-year question data for the individual Justices.