Last time, we began our examination of a new question: who has most often been a bellwether vote – a Justice who is nearly always in the majority in a divided decision – in civil cases? Then, we reviewed the years 1990-2003. Now, we’re taking a look at the years 2004-2018.
In Table 995, we review the first six of the eleven Justices who have participated in at least one civil case since 2004: Justices Burke, Fitzgerald, Freeman, Garman, Karmeier and Kilbride. Justice Burke shows more variation in her numbers than most of the Justices we reviewed last time – she’s been in the fifties twice (2010, 2017), in the sixties three times (2013-2015), in the seventies twice (2007-2008), in the eighties three times (2009, 2011, 2018), and between ninety and one hundred percent – disregarding her first-year civil opinions – twice (2012, 2016). Justice Fitzgerald was, for the most part, squarely in tune with the Court during the final years of his tenure – he voted with the majority in every divided case in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010, and did so ninety percent of the time in 2006. Justice Freeman voted with the majority between seventy and ninety percent of the time for the most part, with a few dips under that trend (55.56% in 2010, 2011 and 2015, and fifty percent in 2017). Justice Garman’s numbers were similar from 2004 to 2012, but there is some evidence her rate may be edging up in recent years: 92.86% in 2013, 100% in 2015 and 2017, 87.5% in 2018. Although current Chief Justice Karmeier’s rate was comparatively low in three of his first four full years – 42.86% in 2007, 66.67% in 2008 and 42.86% in 2009, since that time he too has generally been between seventy and ninety percent. For the most part, Justice Kilbride was less likely to be in the majority of a divided decision than the other Justices in this table. He voted with the majority in only a third of divided civil decisions in 2015, was in the forties five times (2004, 2008, 2011-2013) and in the fifties three times (2005, 2014, 2017). Justice Kilbride joined the majority 62.5% of the time in 2007 and 2018, and 66.67% in 2010. He voted with the majority 71.43% of the time in 2009 and 2016 and reached a high of 80% in 2006.
In Table 996, we review the data for the final five Justices who served during these years: McMorrow, Neville, Rarick, Theis and Thomas. Justice McMorrow’s majority rate was 71.43% in 2004, 88.89% in 2005 and 69.23% in 2006. The Court’s newest member Justice Neville voted with the majority in all of the divided civil cases he participated in last year. In 2004, Justice Rarick (in his final year on the Court) voted with the majority in fifty percent of the divided civil cases. Justice Theis has been in line with the majority for most of her years on the Court: in the eighties four times (2011-2012, 2016 and 2018), in the seventies twice (2015 and 2017) and in the nineties and sixties once each (2013 and 2014, respectively). Although it has dipped slightly in the past few years, Justice Thomas’ majority rate was between eighty and one hundred percent each year between 2004 and 2011, 2013-2015 and 2018. His lowest majority rates were 75% in 2012, 71.43% in 2016 and 75% in 2017.
Join us next Tuesday as we turn our attention to the same metric for the criminal docket.