Over the past few weeks, we’ve been wrapping up this first year at the Illinois Supreme Court Review with a quick look at the questioning patterns at the Illinois Supreme Court’s oral arguments in criminal, quasi-criminal and disciplinary cases decided to date in 2015, comparing that data to our conclusions earlier in the summer and fall from the past seven years’ worth of civil case arguments.
Today, we begin our look at the individual Justices’ questioning patterns. First: which Justice asks the most questions?
The answer is the same as it is in the civil docket: Justice Thomas, followed by Justice Theis. Chief Justice Garman is next, followed by Justices Karmeier and Burke. Finally, we have Justices Freeman and Kilbride, who at least in cases decided during 2015 have asked very few questions of counsel.
In Table 119 below, we consider the data on total questions, divided by the three segments of the argument. The data shows that Justice Thomas is the most active questioner during the initial presentations of both the appellant and the appellee. The Chief Justice is second among appellants, followed close behind by Justice Theis. Interestingly, among appellees, Justice Theis and Justice Karmeier are tied for the second position, followed by the Chief Justice. Justice Theis is the most active questioner during rebuttals, narrowly edging out Justice Thomas. Indeed, Justices Theis and Thomas have between them asked just short of three-quarters of all the questions asked during rebuttals in the criminal docket this year.
Finally, in Table 120 below, we show the average questions per segment by each Justice. These data reflect that the Court in general asks significantly fewer questions during criminal arguments than it does in civil cases. Justice Thomas, for example, has averaged 2.53 questions to appellants, 2.41 to appellees and 0.84 during rebuttal in criminal cases decided this year. In civil cases, he has averaged 3.9, 4.42 and 1.35, respectively. At least this year, only Justice Theis in rebuttals and the Chief Justice with appellants has averaged more questions in any segment in criminal cases than in civil ones. Also note that with the exception of Justice Karmeier, each of the Justices averages more questions to appellants in criminal cases than to appellees.
Join us back here tomorrow as we continue our Justice-by-Justice review of the Court’s questioning patterns in criminal cases decided to date in 2015.