Last week, we began a quick trip through the oral arguments of 2015 in criminal, quasi-criminal and disciplinary cases, comparing our insights to our results in the civil arguments between 2008 and 2014. In day two of our review today, we look at three more issues.
First, we present three scatter diagrams addressing our first question: do more questions suggest that the case will be longer under submission? It’s easy to suggest a theory as to why that might be true – more questions might suggest that the Court is conflicted about a case, which might lead to a longer time under submission as the Court tries to reach a final resolution.
Table 110 below reports the time under submission plotted against the total questions asked both sides. A perfect relationship between total questions and time under submission would lead to a straight line anchored at the lower left hand corner of the plot. We see that although there is some relationship between the variables – by and large, more questions does suggest longer time under submission – the relationship is only approximate. Note, for example, the cases which were under submission for 134 and 176 days which sparked exactly one question each.
Table 111 below shows the data on questions to the appellant plotted against the days under submission. The relationship is about the same – more-or-less linear, but with a good bit of variation. Compare, for example, the dot at the top of the chart, a case under submission for 135 days which brought 22 questions to the appellant, to the one under submission for 310 days which only brought 10 questions.
In Table 112 below, we plot the data for questions to appellees against the time under submission. Here, the data appears to be at least slightly more linear – but still, the relationship between how active the Court is at oral argument at time under submission is very much an approximate one.
So let’s turn to another of the questions we analyzed several months ago in the context of civil cases – does a more active Court suggest that the Court’s opinion is going to be longer?
In Table 113 below, we plot the total questions to both sides against the length of the majority opinion. The data reflects something fairly close to a linear relationship – there seem to be fewer outliers than was the case plotting questions against time under submission. This plot suggests that at least in 2015, more questions from the Court suggested a longer majority opinion in criminal cases.
In Table 114 below, we turn to our final issue for today – just how long are the odds against a litigant who gets more questions than his or her opponent (at least a moderately accurate indicator in civil cases that you might be headed for a loss)? The result is quite interesting, and one that bears testing against a larger database. As we see below, the winner nearly always gets more questions in the Court’s divided decisions. On the other hand, when the Court is unanimous, the winner gets more questions in only one of every three cases – a result far more in line with our data from the civil cases.
Join us back here tomorrow as we look at several more issues about the Court’s criminal oral arguments so far in 2015.