Two weeks ago, we began our detailed analysis of the data on oral arguments in civil and criminal cases between 2008 and 2016. This week and next, we’ll be looking at Justice Rita B. Garman’s patterns in oral argument, starting with civil cases.
Our data includes 102 cases in which Justice Garman voted with a majority affirming, and 176 in which she joined a majority reversing. Overall, in affirmances Justice Garman averaged 2.03 questions to appellants and 1.22 questions to appellees (like the Court as a whole, averaging more questions to the losing party). Writing the majority opinion had a significant impact, suggesting that when Justice Garman is quite active at oral argument, she is likely writing the majority opinion. In affirmances, she averaged 3.73 questions to appellants and 1.73 questions to appellees. There are only two cases in which she joined a majority affirming and wrote a concurrence (to eleven where she wrote the majority opinion). When Justice Garman wasn’t writing in an affirmance, she averaged only 1.29 questions to appellants, 1.18 to appellees.
When Justice Garman is in the majority reversing, she once again averages more questions to the losing party – 1.81 questions to appellees, 1.21 questions to appellants. Writing the majority opinion has a significant impact – in the twenty-six cases in which Justice Garman wrote the majority reversing, she averaged 3.46 questions to appellees, 1.96 to appellants. She only wrote concurrences in two cases where she voted with a majority reversing. In the 148 cases where the Court reversed and Justice Garman didn’t write separately, she averaged 1.54 questions to appellees and 1.07 to appellants.
When Justice Garman is in the minority in civil cases, she tends to ask more questions of the party she’s voting against, rather than the party which will ultimately lose the case. When Justice Garman is in the minority of an affirmance, she averages 2.86 questions to appellees, only 1.14 to appellants. Writing a dissent has little impact. Justice Garman averages 2.75 questions to appellees when writing a dissent – slightly fewer than the overall number – and 1.75 to appellants. When Justice Garman is in the minority of a reversal, she averages three questions to appellants, 1.5 to appellees. When writing a dissent, she averages four questions to appellants, two to appellees.
Join us back here tomorrow as we analyze whether writing an opinion makes it more likely that Justice Garman will ask the first question in civil cases.