Yesterday, we began our analysis of the individual Justices’ track records with respect to majority opinions, beginning with civil opinions between 2000 and 2004. Today, we compare that data to the Justices’ opinions in criminal cases during the same years.
Once again, we begin by reviewing the data we first reported a few weeks ago – which Justices wrote the most opinions? In 2000, Justice McMorrow led the Court with sixteen criminal majority opinions, and Justices Heiple and Rathje wrote 13 apiece. In 2001, Justice Freeman led with twelve majorities, and Justice McMorrow wrote ten. In 2002, Justice Fitzgerald wrote thirteen majority opinions in criminal cases, and Chief Justice McMorrow and Justice Freeman wrote eleven apiece. For 2003, Justice Fitzgerald was the most frequent voice of the Court in criminal cases by a wide margin, writing thirteen opinions. The next year, Justices Garman and Rarick led, writing eleven and ten majority opinions each.
We report the data on the average length of the Justices’ majority opinions in Table 387 below. Justice McMorrow, who tended to write slightly longer-than-average civil majority opinions between 2000 and 2003, was much more variable on the criminal side. Her criminal majority opinions averaged 31.13 pages in 2000, but only 16.4 in 2001; 23.09 in 2002, 17.13 in 2003 and 25.29 in 2004. Justice Miller’s criminal majority opinions in 2000 were similar in length to his civil opinions, averaging 11.7 pages. For 2001, his majority opinions averaged 16 pages. Just as was true on the civil side, Justice Garman’s average varied widely, averaging 15.75 pages in 2001, 23.11 in 2002, 15.13 in 2003 and only 10.36 in 2004. Justice Freeman’s data is similar: he averaged 23.4 pages in 2000 and 20 in 2001, but 14.36 in 2002, 18.43 in 2003 and 17.25 in 2004. Justice Heiple’s opinions were comparatively short on the criminal side (just as they were on the civil side), averaging 10.92 pages. Justice Kilbride’s opinions tended to be short on the civil side, and the data on the criminal side is similar: he averaged nine pages in 2001, 14 in 2002, 10.5 in 2003 and 11.5 in 2004.
Justice Rathje’s majority opinions in criminal cases were somewhat longer than his civil opinions, averaging 15.31 pages in 2001. Justice Thomas averaged 17.56 pages in 2001, but got shorter each year following: 15.56 pages in 2002, 13.5 in 2003, 11.43 pages in 2004. Chief Justice Harrison’s criminal opinions tended to be quite short, averaging 12.67 pages in 2000, 7.83 pages in 2001 and only 3 pages in 2002. Justice Rarick averaged 13 pages in 2002, 13.6 pages in 2003 and 20.4 pages in 2004. Justice Bilandic’s eleven majority opinions on the criminal side in 2000 averaged comparatively long: 25.36 pages. Justice Fitzgerald’s majority opinions were comparable in length to his civil opinions: 18.11 pages in 2001, 14 pages in 2002, 12.69 pages in 2003 and 15.8 in 2004.
Reviewing the data for the entire period, Chief Justice McMorrow was consistently among the Court’s leaders in mean length of criminal majority opinions. Justice Bilandic wrote several lengthy majority opinions in 2000. Justices Freeman, Garman and Thomas showed no consistent pattern, sometimes averaging longer opinions, sometimes shorter. Chief Justice Harrison and Justice Kilbride tended to write shorter majority opinions in criminal cases.
Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn our attention to the Court’s majority opinions between 2005 and 2009.