In recent weeks, we’ve been taking a close look, Justice by Justice, at the question patterns of the members of the Illinois Supreme Court. We’ve been analyzing whether the Justices’ question patterns allows us to tentatively infer the Justices’ likely votes, and which Justices might be writing opinions.
Table 87 contains the data for cases in which Justice Robert R. Thomas votes with the majority. On the left side of the Table we see Justice Thomas’ question patterns in reversals. Justice Thomas tends to ask significantly more questions when he’s writing the opinion in a reversal, both of appellants and appellees. Writing a special concurrence, on the other hand, has little impact on Justice Thomas’ questioning. The pattern is the same with affirmances, although the impact is much less. Justice Thomas tends to ask slightly more questions of both sides when he’s writing the majority opinion in an affirmance than when he’s not writing. Note that in both cases, Justice Thomas tends to ask more questions of the party which ultimately loses the case.
In Table 88 below, we show the question data when Justice Thomas is in the minority – reversals on the left, affirmances on the right. When Justice Thomas is in the minority of a reversal, he averages far more questions of the appellant – the party he votes against, rather than the party losing the case. The effect is the same when Justice Thomas is in the minority of an affirmance – he averages more questions of the appellee rather than the losing appellant.
The effect of writing when Justice Thomas is in the minority is somewhat stronger than the effect when he’s in the majority. Justice Thomas averages nearly triple the number of questions of appellants when he’s dissenting from a reversal than when he joins another Justice’s dissent. When he’s in the minority of an affirmance, Justice Thomas averages nearly triple the number of questions of both sides, compared to when he’s not writing.
Tomorrow, we’ll address whether Justice Thomas’ voting and writing affects the likelihood of his asking either side the first question.