Today, we turn our attention back to the Court’s oral arguments. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be analyzing how the Court’s questioning patterns tend to differ in civil and criminal cases, based upon our database of every oral argument from 2008 through 2015.
First, the most basic question – total questions, Justice by Justice. Between 2008 and 2015, the Court asked a total of 8,059 questions in civil cases. The most active questioner was Justice Thomas, who asked 2,523 questions. Who was second depends on what one means. In absolute terms, the second most active questioner was Justice Garman with 1,010 questions. But the Fitzgerald/Theis seat on the Court exceeds that number by a substantial number – Chief Justice Fitzgerald asked 678 questions in civil cases between 2008 and his retirement in 2010, and Justice Theis has asked 703 questions since joining the Court. Justice Burke is third, having asked 982 questions in civil cases. Karmeier has asked 744 questions, Justice Freeman has asked 732, and Justice Kilbride has asked 687.
In Table 411 below, we report the same data as a percentage of the total. Justice Thomas has asked 31.3% of the total questions asked during civil cases. The Fitzgerald/Theis seat on the Court accounts for 17.14% of the questions – 8.41% by Justice Fitzgerald, 8.72% by Justice Theis. Justices Garman and Burke are nearly tied; Justice Garman has asked 12.53% of the Court’s questions in civil cases, Justice Burke 12.19%. Justice Karmeier is next, having asked 9.23% of the Court’s questions in civil cases, followed by Justice Freeman (9.08%) and Justice Kilbride (8.52%).
Finally, in Table 412, we report the data divided by the three segments of the argument – appellant, appellee and rebuttal. Justice Thomas is the most active questioner in all three segments – 995 questions to appellants, 1,176 to appellees and 352 in rebuttal. The second and third most active questioner of appellants are Justices Burke and Freeman, respectively – 484 by Justice Burke, 423 by Justice Freeman. Justice Garman has asked appellants 396 questions, Justice Theis 363 questions, Justice Fitzgerald 353 questions, Justice Karmeier 283 questions and Justice Kilbride 242 questions.
On the appellee’s side, the second most active questioner is Justice Garman, with 531 questions. Justice Burke is next at 402, followed by Justice Karmeier at 358. Justice Kilbride has asked appellees 308 questions, Justice Fitzgerald 261, Justice Freeman 253 and Justice Theis 245. As for rebuttals, only two Justices aside from Justice Thomas have asked more than 100 questions – Justice Kilbride (137) and Justice Karmeier (103). Justice Burke has asked 96, Justice Theis 95, Justice Garman 83, Justice Fitzgerald 64 and Justice Freeman 56.
Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s experience in criminal arguments.