Today we turn to another phase of our analysis of the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision making, asking what we can predict from the time a case has been under submission between oral argument and decision.
In Table 235, we report the overall data for civil cases. The lag time at the Court has been consistently drifting downwards from 2008 until now. In 2008, based upon incomplete data, civil cases were under submission for an average of 157.29 days. The lag time was relatively consistent from 2009 to 2012 – 140.25 days in 2009, 150 days in 2010, 143.97 days in 2011 and 144.1 days in 2012. The average fell to 137.5 days in 2013, but has dropped more sharply in the last two years – in 2014, the lag time for civil cases was 121.41 days, and last year, civil cases were under submission for an average of only 114.79 days.
So all other things being equal, does a longer time under submission suggest that the Court’s decision will be unanimous? In Table 236, we report the year-by-year averages, divided into non-unanimous and unanimous decisions. Clearly, the average time under submission is significantly longer throughout our period for non-unanimous decisions than for unanimous ones. Interestingly, however, the difference between the two is dropping. Unanimous decisions handed down in 2008 were pending for 121.33 days, while non-unanimous ones remained pending for more than twice as long – 247.17 days. By 2011, the average lag time for unanimous decisions had increased a bit to 128.96 days, but the average for non-unanimous opinions had dropped to 190.67 days. By 2015, the time under submission for unanimous opinions had fallen to 104.76 days, but the lag time for non-unanimous decisions has fallen substantially more, to a low of 152.67 days.
Join us back here tomorrow as we turn to the year-by-year data on the Court’s civil docket.