Last week, we continued our Justice-by-Justice review of the question patterns on the Illinois Supreme Court by beginning our look at the numbers for Justice Mary Jane Theis. We saw that in three of the four scenarios we studied, Justice Theis tends to average at least somewhat more questions to the side she ultimately votes against, whether or not that party prevails in the appeal (the lone exception being reversals with Justice Theis in the majority). We further demonstrated that all other things being equal, Justice Theis will tend to question parties more heavily when she is writing the majority opinion for the Court. Dissents, on the other hand, have relatively little impact on her questioning.
We turn now to the likelihood of Justice Theis asking the first question to each side. In Table 102 below, we report the data for cases in which Justice Theis is in the majority. Not surprisingly, given that Justice Theis tends to be one of the more active questioners on the Court, she asks the first question of appellants in approximately one of every four cases when she’s in the majority, regardless of whether the Court reverses or affirms. She is significantly less likely to lead off questioning to the appellees’ side. Once again, writing the majority opinion has a dramatic effect on the numbers. When she’s writing the majority opinion, Justice Theis is three to four times as likely to ask the first question of appellants. Although she relatively seldom asks the first question of appellees, Justice Theis is nearly five times as likely to ask the first question of appellees when she’s writing the majority opinion in an affirmance than when she’s not writing.
Turning to Table 103, we find that Justice Theis almost never asks the first question of either side when she’s in the minority – indeed, the only examples have been a scattered few cases in the five years’ worth of data in which Justice Theis dissented from a reversal and led off questioning to the appellants’ side.
Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up our Justice-by-Justice review of the Court’s question patterns with day one of our look at the record of the late Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald.