Today, we continue our Justice-by-Justice review of the question patterns of the Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court. We’re looking at whether we can infer the Justices’ likely voting and opinion writing from the Justices’ question patterns at oral argument. For this Thanksgiving Wednesday – day one of our analysis of Justice Mary Jane Theis.
In Table 100 below, we see the data when Justice Theis votes with the majority. Across the entirety of the Court’s civil docket, Justice Theis is not an especially heavy questioner. She averages slightly more questions to the appellant overall in reversals – the winning party, rather than the losing one (recall that the Court as a whole averages more questions to the losing party). In affirmances, Justice Theis averages nearly three times as many questions to the appellant – this time, the losing party, consistent with the Court’s overall pattern. Writing has a clear impact on Justice Theis’ question patterns when she is voting with the majority. In each case – appellant and appellee, reversals and affirmances – she averages at least somewhat more questions when she’s writing the majority opinion; indeed, she averages nearly six times as many questions to appellants when she’s writing a majority opinion in an affirmance. Special concurrences are always a very small data set at the Court, but Justice Theis averages more questions to both sides in reversals when she’s writing a concurrence even than when she’s writing a majority opinion.
In Table 101 below, we turn to the data on Justice Theis’s patterns when she is voting with the minority. When Justice Theis dissents from a reversal, she averages more questions to the appellant – the party she votes against, rather than the party which ultimately loses – than to the appellee. The pattern is the same when Justice Theis dissents from an affirmance – she averages more questions of the appellee than of the appellant. However, writing a dissent seems to have relatively little impact on Justice Theis’s patterns. Although she averages more questions of the appellant when she’s writing a dissent from a reversal, in each of the other three scenarios we report, Justice Theis averages fewer questions when she writes a dissent.
Join us back here next Tuesday for day two of our analysis of Justice Theis’s record at oral argument. In the meantime – a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!