Today, we begin a new area in our analysis of the individual Justices’ records. Do any of the Justices tend to write longer (or shorter) majority opinions, and how do the majority opinions in civil cases compare to the criminal majorities? We begin by considering the civil opinions between 2000 and 2004.
For context, we repeat the Justice-by-Justice number of civil majority opinions in Table 384 below. In 2000, Chief Justice Harrison and Justices Bilandic and Miller led the Court with seven majority opinions. In 2001, Justice McMorrow was far ahead of the other Justices, writing eleven majority opinions in civil cases. The next year, Justice Kilbride wrote ten, Justices Freeman and Fitzgerald eight apiece and Justice Garman seven. In 2003, Justices Freeman and Kilbride led with eight majority opinions each, and Justices Thomas and Rarick were next with seven apiece. In 2004, Justices Fitzgerald and Rarick led the Court with nine majority opinions apiece, and Justices Garman and Freeman were next with eight each.
In Table 385, we report the year-by-year mean length of each Justice’s majority opinions in civil cases. We would expect, simply as a matter of differing writing styles, for certain Justices to average at least somewhat longer opinions than others, and there are signs of that in the data. Chief Justice McMorrow averaged 21.4 pages for her civil majority opinions in 2000, 19.27 pages the next year, 18.83 pages in 2002 and 19.5 pages in 2003, before falling to 13.4 pages in 2004. Justice Miller’s opinions were far shorter, averaging 10.14 pages in 2000 and 9.67 pages in 2001. Justice Garman’s opinions varied from year to year, averaging 11.75 pages in 2001, 19.57 in 2002, 11 pages in 2003 and 21.13 pages in 2004. Justice Freeman’s opinions varied from year to year as well: 15.67 pages in 2000, 11.5 in 2001, 16.13 in 2002, 12.38 in 2003 and 19 pages in 2004. Justice Heiple’s four civil majority opinions in 2000 averaged 6 pages in length. Justice Kilbride’s majority opinions during this period were quite consistent in length – 12.8 pages in 2002, 13 pages in 2003 and 13.86 pages in 2004. Justice Rathje’s five majority opinions in 2000 averaged 8.2 pages. Justice Thomas’ majority opinions in civil cases varied from year to year, averaging 17 pages in 2001, 12.4 in 2002, 17.57 in 2003 and 14.4 in 2004. Chief Justice Harrison’s opinions tended to be somewhat shorter, averaging only 7.14 pages in 2000 and 10.25 in 2002. Justice Rarick averaged 15.14 pages in 203 and 12.22 in 2004. Justice Bilandic’s seven majority opinions in civil cases in 2000 averaged 15 pages. Finally, Justice Fitzgerald averaged 16.63 pages in 2002, 13.5 in 2003 and 15 in 2004.
Comparing the data to the court-wide averages, we see indications that trends in individual Justices’ writing may not hold for more than a few years at a time. Chief Justice McMorrow’s averages were longer than the overall Court from 2000 to 2003, but shorter in 2004. Justices Garman, Freeman and Thomas were each above the court-wide average in some years and below it in others. Justices Miller, Heiple, Rathje and Chief Justice Harrison averaged at least a bit below the overall average for the most part.
Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s criminal majority opinions between 2000 and 2004.