Last week, we turned our attention to the individual Justices’ records, analyzing whether any of the Justices tend to consistently write either longer or shorter majority opinions than other members of the Court do. Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s civil opinions between 2005 and 2009.
In Table 388, we review the data on the distribution of majority opinions in civil cases. In 2005, Justices Thomas and Garman led the Court, writing nine majority opinions in civil cases. Chief Justice McMorrow was next with seven civil majority opinions. In 2006, Justices Fitzgerald and Karmeier led the Court, writing ten civil majorities apiece. Justice Garman was next with seven, followed by Justice McMorrow with six. For 2007, Justice Fitzgerald led with nine majority opinions in civil cases. Justice Burke wrote six, and Chief Justice Thomas and Justices Kilbride and Karmeier wrote four each. In 2008, Justice Freeman led with eight majority opinions in civil cases, followed by Justices Garman and Kilbride with seven apiece and Justice Burke with six. Finally, in 2009 Justice Garman led the Court, writing eight majority opinions in civil cases. Chief Justice Fitzgerald and Justices Burke and Freeman were tied for second, with each Justice writing six majority opinions.
We report the average length of each Justices’ majority opinions, year by year, in Table 389 below. Chief Justice McMorrow was once again among the longer writers on the Court, with her civil opinions averaging 30.29 pages in 2005 and 23 pages in 2006. Justice Burke’s civil majority opinions averaged 21 pages in 2006, but declined to 16.33 pages in 2007, 10.5 pages in 2008 and 13 pages in 2009. Justice Garman’s opinions were slightly above the court-wide average: 22.33 pages in 2005, 20.43 pages in 2006, 18 in 2007, 19.86 in 2008 and 15.38 pages in 2009. Justice Freeman’s opinions were comparable to Justice Garman’s: 19.6 pages in 2005, 19.4 in 2006, 21.33 in 2007, 17 pages in 2008 and 15.67 pages in 2009. Justice Kilbride continued to write some of the Court’s shorter opinions on the civil side, averaging 14.5 pages in 2005, 18.5 in 2006, 16.5 in 2007, 14.29 in 2008 and 13.4 pages in 2009.
Once again, Justice Thomas’ opinions followed no consistent pattern: longer than the court-wide average in some years, shorter in others. In 2005, Justice Thomas’ civil majorities averaged 16.56 pages. The next year, his opinions fell to 12.83 pages. For 2007, Justice Thomas’ average on the civil side increased to 23.75 pages. The next year, he averaged 18 pages per majority opinion, and for 2009, his opinions averaged 29 pages. Similarly, Justice Karmeier averaged 16 pages on the civil side in 2005, but was up to 28.7 pages in 2006. For 2007 and 2008, Justice Karmeier’s opinions grew shorter: 19.75 pages in 2007 and 16.5 pages in 2008. Chief Justice Fitzgerald was consistently around the court-wide average. His civil majority opinions averaged 14.75 pages in 2005. He averaged 20.8 pages in 2006, but fell to 17.67 pages in 2007. His average increased to 19.8 pages in 2008, but his average opinion fell to 15.5 pages in 2009.
Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Justices’ majority opinions in criminal cases between 2005 and 2009.