Yesterday, we began our examination of the Court’s majority opinions in the past six years by analyzing the opinions in civil cases. Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s majority opinions criminal cases between 2010 and 2015.
We begin by once again reviewing the number of opinions written by each Justice. In 2010, Chief Justice Kilbride led the Court, writing twelve majority opinions in criminal cases. Justice Garman was next with ten opinions, followed by Justice Thomas (nine), Justice Karmeier (seven) and Justice Burke (six). For 2011, the opinions were quite evenly distributed in criminal cases: Chief Justice Kilbride led again with eight, but Justice Freeman had seven, and Justices Burke, Garman, Thomas and Karmeier all had six apiece. For 2012, Justices Burke, Garman and Theis led the Court with seven majority opinions each in criminal cases. Justice Karmeier wrote four opinions, Justice Thomas three and Chief Justice Kilbride and Justice Freeman wrote two.
In 2013, Justices Karmeier and Theis led with seven majority opinions apiece in criminal cases. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman and Thomas were next, writing six opinions apiece. Justice Burke wrote five opinions in criminal cases. For 2014, Chief Justice Garman led, writing seven majority opinions. Justices Freeman, Kilbride and Thomas wrote six each, and Justices Karmeier and Theis wrote four apiece. Finally, in 2015, Justice Thomas led the Court, writing six majority opinions in criminal cases. Justices Burke, Kilbride and Theis wrote five each, and Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman and Karmeier wrote four apiece.
We turn next to the mean length of each Justices’ majority opinions in criminal cases. For the past six years, majority opinions in criminal cases have averaged a bit longer, but the data is significantly impacted by occasional very long opinions. For 2010, Justice Garman led the Court, averaging 28.6 pages. Chief Justice Fitzgerald averaged 19 pages. Justice Karmeier was next at 18.43 pages, followed by Justice Freeman at 15.2 pages. In 2011, Justice Garman again led, with her average majority opinion coming in at 21 pages. Justice Karmeier averaged 19.33 pages, followed by Justice Thomas at 14.83 pages, Justice Freeman (11.14 pages), Chief Justice Kilbride (10.88 pages) and Justice Theis (10 pages). In 2012, Justice Garman led, averaging 16.14 pages per majority opinion. Justice Theis was next at 14 pages, but every remaining Justice averaged less than ten pages per majority opinion – Justice Burke (9.71 pages); Justice Karmeier (9.5 pages); Justice Thomas (8.67 pages); Chief Justice Kilbride (8.5 pages); and Justice Freeman (7.5 pages). For 2013, Justice Theis led the Court, averaging 13.14 pages per majority opinion for criminal cases. Justice Garman was next at 12.83 pages, followed by Justice Karmeier (11.29 pages) and Justice Burke (10 pages). All the remaining Justices once again averaged below ten pages per majority.
For 2014, four of the seven Justices averaged more than ten pages per opinion – but just barely. Justice Karmeier led the Court, averaging 15.5 pages per opinion. Chief Justice Kilbride averaged 14 pages, followed by Chief Justice Garman (11.57 pages), Justice Freeman (10.17 pages), Justice Thomas (9.67 pages), Justice Theis (9.5 pages) and Justice Burke (9 pages). Last year, opinions edged up slightly, but remained quite short. Justice Thomas led the Court, averaging 14.67 pages per majority opinion in criminal cases. Justice Theis was next, averaging 13.2 pages. They were followed by Justices Karmeier (13 pages), Kilbride (12.6 pages), Burke (11.6 pages), and Chief Justice Garman (10.25 pages). Justice Freeman wrote the shortest majority opinions in criminal cases last year, averaging only 7.25 pages.
Join us back here next Tuesday as we turn our attention to a new question in our continuing study of the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision making.