Yesterday, we reviewed the year-by-year question patterns data for the Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court for the final four years of our study period, from 2011 to 2014. Today, we turn to a different question.
On September 24, 2015, the Supreme Court had its most recent decision day, handing down nine civil opinions:
Stevens v. McGuireWoods LLP, No. 118652
Seymour v. Collins, No. 118432
Gurba v. Community High School District No. 155, No. 118332
O’Toole v. The Chicago Zoological Society, No. 118254
Village of Vernon Hills v. Heelan, No. 118170
Lake Environmental, Inc. v. Arnold, No. 118110
Financial Freedom Acquisition, LLC v. Standard Bank and Trust Company, No. 117950
Walker v. McGuire, No. 117138
McElwain v. The Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, No. 117170
So far, we’ve concluded that the party that gets more questions is statistically significantly more likely to lose and that the Justices’ questioning patterns – the number of questions asked in relation to the other Justices and whether the Justice asked the first question – may suggest that the Justice is writing an opinion.
Let’s start with the balance of questions. As it turns out, the side getting more questions lost seven of the nine cases – everything except O’Toole and Financial Freedom Acquisition. Given that the losing appellant in O’Toole received only one question less than the winning appellee, there was only one real surprise for the day – Financial Freedom Acquisition.
The most active questioner wrote the majority opinion in four of the nine cases – Walker, McElwain, Gurba and Stevens. Justice Burke, who wrote the majority opinion in Financial Freedom Acquisition, was the second most active questioner in that case.
But there were other signs even when the author of the majority opinion didn’t ask the most questions. Justice Freeman, the author of the majority in Village of Vernon Hills, asked the first question of both appellant and appellee. Justices Burke and Garman, the authors of the majorities in Financial Freedom Acquisition and Lake Environmental, asked the first question of the winning party. Justice Theis, the author of the majority in O’Toole, asked the first question of the losing party in the rebuttal. Only in one case – Seymour – did the author of the majority opinion neither lead the Court in questions nor ask the first question to either side.
Next week, we’ll begin the main event of our analysis of the Court’s oral arguments – a close look at the individual Justices’ questioning patterns, beginning with Justice Burke.