Last time, we completed our review of the Court and Justices’ voting records on employment law cases. This week, we’re taking a look at the Court’s history with civil constitutional law cases (we also track constitutional law cases on the criminal law docket, but those cases are not included in the data below).
Throughout the 1990s, constitutional law was a common subject on the Court’s civil docket. The Court decided thirteen cases in 1990, two in 1991, eleven in 1992, three in 1993, eight in 1994, five in 1995, fourteen in 1996 and nine in 1997.
During these years, plaintiffs’ wins from the Appellate Court were a bit more common than defendants’ wins. In all, the Court accepted thirty-four plaintiffs’ wins and twenty-seven cases won by the defendants below.
Next, we look at the Supreme Court record of the winning party below. If, for example, the Court frequently affirms defendants’ wins and reverses plaintiffs’ wins, that could be some evidence that the Court would like to move the law in a particular area in a more conservative direction (and vice versa). Between 1990 and 1997, defendants who won their cases at the Appellate Court won thirteen at the Supreme Court and lost fourteen.
The won-loss record for plaintiffs who won below was only slightly worse. Between 1990 and 1997, plaintiffs who won at the Appellate Court won fifteen cases at the Supreme Court and lost nineteen.
Next, we combine parts of the data from the last two tables to arrive at an overall won-loss record for defendants in constitutional law cases. From 1990 to 1997, defendants won thirty-two cases and lost twenty-nine.
Of course, there are many subfields within the catchall subject of constitutional law. Where were the Court’s cases most often coming from in the 1990s? Twenty-four cases raised issues regarding the powers and organization of government entities and public officials. Sixteen raised due process issues. Ten involved Illinois’ pension clause (including nine in 1992 alone). Nine involved issues of the judicial branch. Six raised preemption issues. Four raised First Amendment issues, three were equal protection cases, and one involved a search and seizure issue.
During these years, Justice Miller voted for constitutional law defendants most often – thirty-six votes. Justice Freeman was next with eighteen votes, followed by Justice Bilandic (sixteen votes), Justice McMorrow and Justice Nickels (fifteen votes each).
As for the Justices’ votes against defendants in constitutional law cases, Justice Freeman led with thirty. Behind him were Justices Miller, Heiple and Bilandic, tied with twenty-seven each. Justice Harrison was next with twenty-three votes.
Join us back here later today as we review the data for the years 1998 to 2005.