5332677555_fe3798fae4_zYesterday, we began our Justice-by-Justice review of question patterns at the Illinois Supreme Court with Justice Anne M. Burke. Our goal is to explore what we can infer about likely voting and opinion writing from each Justice’s questioning of the two sides. Today, we look at whether Justice Burke’s vote and opinion writing impacts the likelihood that she will ask the first question.

The answer is yes. As shown below in Table 77, there is a 24% likelihood that Justice Burke will ask the first question of the appellant when the Court unanimously reverses. Most of these cases involve cases where Justice Burke doesn’t write a decision. She asks the appellant the first question 20% of the time when she’s not writing an opinion, but 41% of the time when she is writing the majority. Justice Burke asks the first question of appellees only 5% of the time when the Court reverses – 3.3% when Justice Burke is not writing an opinion, and 8.11% when she is writing the majority opinion. (Justice Burke was not the first questioner in any case where she wrote a special concurrence.)

The effect is equally significant when the Court unanimously affirms. Overall, Justice Burke asks the first question of each side in unanimous affirmances 21% of the time. When she does not write an opinion, she is first with appellants only 9% of the time, first with appellees in 16% of cases. When Justice Burke is writing the majority in a unanimous affirmance, she leads off questioning to appellants – the losing party – 71% of the time, and 29% of the time to appellees.

Table 77

The data with respect to cases where Justice Burke was in the minority is simpler. Of the 233 civil oral arguments we reviewed, Justice Burke didn’t ask the first question to the appellee when she ultimately voted with the minority a single time. When the Court reversed with Justice Burke in the minority, writing a dissent (as opposed to merely joining one authored by another Justice) had no effect on the likelihood of Justice Burke asking the first question. In affirmances, Justice Burke was less likely to ask the first question when she wrote a dissent than when she did not.

Table 78

To summarize, like most of the Justices, Justice Burke tends in most cases to ask more questions of the party which will eventually lose the case. However, pay attention to which side Justice Burke questions most in comparison to the other Justices. If most of the other Justices are concentrating on one side, but Justice Burke is more heavily questioning the other, it can signal a possible dissent. Justice Burke tends to ask significantly more questions when she is writing an opinion, whether a majority or a dissent. Justice Burke is also more likely to ask the first question of each side when she writes an opinion.

Next week, we’ll address Justice Kilbride’s question patterns.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Anne Worner (no changes).