Last week, we tracked the Court’s experience, year by year, with recusals in civil cases. Recusals are potentially a serious issue in Illinois Supreme Court practice, since there’s no provision for replacing recused Justices with pro tem Justices, and there must be four votes for the Court to decide the case.
This week, we turn our attention to the Court’s experience with recusals in criminal cases. We would expect recusals to be at least a bit more uncommon in criminal than in civil cases, since one of the primary sources of recusal – a Justice having a financial or personal relationship with a party – is much less likely. So what do the numbers look like?
In 2000, Justice Rathje recused in three criminal cases. Justice Bilandic recused twice, and Justices McMorrow and Miller recused once apiece. The following year, the new Justice Garman recused in thirteen criminal cases, and that’s it – no other Justices recused in criminal cases that year. In 2002, new Justice Rarick recused in ten criminal cases. Justice Thomas recused twice, and Justices Garman and Fitzgerald recused once apiece in criminal cases. In 2003, once again Justice Rarick recused in ten criminal cases. Justice Garman recused once. In 2004, Justices Karmeier and Fitzgerald recused three times each in criminal cases. Justices Freeman and Garman recused in two criminal cases apiece. In 2005, Justice Bilandic recused in seven criminal cases. Justice Freeman recused once.
In 2000, the prevailing party in criminal recusal cases received six votes once. The prevailing party recused five votes twice, and the prevailing party received four votes – the minimum necessary for a decision – three times. In 2001, recusals had less importance. Seven times, the prevailing party had dix votes. Five times, the winner had five votes, and once, the prevailing party had four votes. In 2002, once again the prevailing party in criminal recusal cases had six votes seven times. The prevailing party had five votes in four cases, and three times, the prevailing party had four votes. In 2003, the prevailing party had six votes five times, five votes three times and four votes twice. In 2004, recusal cases were more important, as the prevailing party had four votes four times. Twice, the winning side had six cases and once, the winner had five votes. In 2005, the prevailing party had six votes seven times, and four votes only once.
In Table 523, we report the recusals between 2006 and 2011. In 2006, new Justice Burke recused in eight criminal cases. Justice Karmeier recused three times, and Justices Garman and Kilbride recused once each. In 2007, Justice Burke recused in three criminal cases, and there were no other recusals. There were no recusals at all in criminal cases in 2008. In 2009, there was only one – Justice Burke, once. In 2010, Justices Burke, Kilbride, Karmeier and Fitzgerald recused in one criminal case each. In 2011, new Justice Theis recused in three criminal cases, the only recusals of the year.
Join us back here tomorrow as we wrap up our brief excursion into the Court’s experience with recusals.