Last week, we started working on a new question – how has the length of the Illinois Supreme Court’s majority opinions evolved in civil and criminal cases since 2000? Last week, we reviewed the years 2000-2007; this week, we’ll look at the years 2008 through 2015.
The data for civil cases is reported in Table 340 below. Between 2000 and 2007, we saw that non-unanimous majority opinions were consistently a least a bit longer than majority opinions in unanimous cases. Between 2008 and 2015, the relationship between the two is not as stable. In fact, in 2009 and 2011-2013, majority opinions were slightly longer in unanimous cases.
Between 2005 and 2007, we saw last week indications that majority opinions might be getting longer, at least in non-unanimous cases. We see below that that trend hasn’t held. Non-unanimous majorities averaged 19.2 pages in 2008 to 15.4 pages in unanimous cases. The following year, non-unanimous majorities fell to 14.75 pages, while majority opinions in unanimous cases were flat at 15.39 pages. In 2010, majority opinions in non-unanimous cases were up by three and a half pages, but the average for unanimous decisions fell by nearly a page.
Majority opinions were shorter in all cases in 2011; non-unanimous majorities fell by exactly five pages, while the average unanimous majority was down to 13.28 pages. The following year, majority opinions fell further to 11.06 pages (non-majority decisions) and 11.19 pages (majority decisions). In 2013, majority opinions in non-unanimous cases reached their lowest level of the entire period, averaging only 10.14 pages. Majority opinions in unanimous decisions were only a bit longer, averaging 11.75 pages. In the most recent two years, majority opinions have gotten a bit longer – 13.0 (non-unanimous) and 11.62 (unanimous) in 2014, 15.67 (non-unanimous) and 13.06 (unanimous) in 2015.
Join us back here tomorrow as we turn to an analysis of the Court’s majority opinions in criminal cases between 2008 and 2015.