Today we continue our Justice-by-Justice review of the questioning patterns for criminal, quasi-criminal and disciplinary cases decided during 2015, checking our conclusions against our work in the summer and fall with civil cases decided since 2008. Today, we review the data for Justice Freeman, Chief Justice Garman and Justice Thomas, working our way from left to right across the bench. We concentrate on cases in which the Justices voted with the majority – given the small dissent rate in criminal cases, the data for cases in which they didn’t vote with the majority is minimal.
In Table 127 below, we report the data for Justice Freeman. As we saw in our review of the civil cases, Justice Freeman is unusual in that one can’t reliably infer that he’s writing an opinion from close attention to the level of his questioning at oral argument. The same thing is true of our criminal case sample. With both reversals and affirmances, Justice Freeman asked slightly more questions when he wasn’t writing than he did when he wrote the majority opinion.
In Table 128, we report the data on cases in which Chief Justice Garman voted with the majority. Here, there is some indication that writing may have an impact. For example, the Chief Justice averages more questions to appellants when she is writing an opinion – either the majority or a special concurrence – and more questions to appellees when she is writing a special concurrence. We have no basis for making an inference when it comes to affirmances, however – the Chief Justice wrote no opinions this year in cases in which she voted with the Court to affirm.
In Table 129 below, we report the data for cases in which Justice Thomas voted with the majority. Here, we see the expected pattern – for either side in reversals, and for appellants in affirmances, Justice Thomas averages significantly more questions when writing the majority opinion than he does when he’s not writing.
Join us back here tomorrow as we complete our review of the Court’s criminal arguments from 2015 – and our first year at Illinois Supreme Court Review – with a look at the question patterns for Justices Karmeier and Theis.