Today we continue our Justice-by-Justice analysis of the question patterns during oral argument on the Illinois Supreme Court, looking further at the data on Justice Charles E. Freeman. Yesterday, we discovered that in contrast to Justices Burke and Kilbride, Justice Freeman doesn’t tend to question counsel more heavily in cases where he winds up writing an opinion.
Today, we address whether Justice Freeman’s votes and writing has an impact on the likelihood that he’ll ask the first question of either side.
In Table 85 below, we see the data when Justice Freeman is voting with the majority. The first noteworthy point here is that although Justice Freeman ranks fifth among the seven Justices in asking questions, it is not at all uncommon for Justice Freeman to ask the first question. When the Court reverses with Justice Freeman in the majority, we see the same pattern as we saw yesterday with total questions – Justice Freeman is less likely to ask the first question when he’s writing the majority than when he’s not writing at all. He’s more often the first questioner of the appellant – the party who ultimately loses – than of the appellee. Turning to affirmances, Justice Freeman is somewhat less likely to be the first question. Once again, writing the majority opinion has no clear impact on the chances that Justice Freeman will be the first questioner.
In Table 86, we see cases in which Justice Freeman is in the minority – reversals on the left, affirmances on the right. Note that being in the minority has a significant impact on the likelihood that Justice Freeman will ask the first question – for both sides, the percentages roughly double over cases where he’s in the majority. Justice Freeman is far more likely to ask the first question of the side he will ultimately vote against than of the side which wins the case; when the Court reverses with Justice Freeman in the minority, he leads off with the appellant a bit over half the time, and when the Court affirms, he begins with the appellee in exactly half the cases. And in these cases, we see for the first time that writing does have an impact; Justice Freeman is much more likely to ask the first question when he’s in the minority and writes a dissent than when he merely joins the dissent of another Justice.
Next week, we’ll turn to the data on questions by Justice Robert R. Thomas.