Yesterday, we continued our Justice-by-Justice review of the question patterns of the Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court, asking what we can infer about Justice Robert R. Thomas’ likely vote, and the chances that he is writing an opinion, based upon his level of questioning to each side. Today, we turn to a related question: how do Justice Thomas’ votes and writing impact the likelihood that he’ll ask the first question of either side?
Table 89 below reports the data when Justice Thomas votes with the majority. We see that Justice Thomas asks the first question of each side more than half the time when the Court reverses with Justice Thomas in the majority. When the Court affirms, Justice Thomas asks the first question of appellants in slightly over 82% of all cases, but of appellees much less frequently – in a bit more than 35% of cases. Writing makes a significant difference when the Court reverses – Justice Thomas is generally the first questioner of both sides when the Court reverses and he’s writing the majority opinion. Affirmances are a little less clear – Justice Thomas is a bit more likely to ask the first question of appellants when the Court affirms, but significantly less likely to ask the first question of appellees. (The number for questions to appellants when Justice Thomas is writing a special concurrence isn’t a misprint – when multiple attorneys appear on one side or the other, we score multiple “firsts” in the argument charts, so it’s possible for a Justice to average more than a 100% likelihood of asking the first question.)
In Table 90 below, we turn to the cases in which Justice Thomas has voted in the minority. The data reflects that Justice Thomas is nearly always the first questioner in such cases. Justice Thomas is slightly more likely to ask the first question of appellants when the Court reverses but he’s voting to affirm, although he’s never asked the first question of appellees in such cases. When the Court affirms with Justice Thomas in the minority, he is less likely to ask the first question when he’s writing a dissent.
Next week, we’ll do a data analytic preview of two key cases from the Court’s November term.