Tracking the Justices’ Dissents in Criminal Cases, 2000-2007

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This week, we’re turning our attention to a new subject, tracking which Justices most often dissented, year by year, and which Justices tended to write the longest and shortest dissents.  Yesterday, we reviewed the Justices’ dissents in civil cases between 2000 and 2007.  Today, we review the Justices’ criminal dissents for the same years.

In Table 128, we report the year-by-year distribution of dissents in criminal cases among the Justices.  In 2000, Justice Mosk led the Court with six dissents in criminal cases.  Justice Kennard was next with five dissents.  Justice Werdegar dissented three times, Chief Justice George and Justices Brown and Baxter twice apiece, and Justice Chin once.  In 2001, Justice Kennard led the Court (beginning a string of five straight years) with five dissents in criminal cases.  Justice Mosk dissented three times, Justice Brown twice, and Chief Justice George and Justice Chin once apiece.  The next year, Justice Kennard led the Court by a wider margin, dissenting eleven times in criminal cases.  Justice Moreno dissented five times, Chief Justice George and Justice Brown three times, Justice Chin twice and Justice Baxter once.  In 2003, Justice Kennard led with ten criminal dissents.  Justice Brown had four, Justice Moreno had three, Justices Werdegar and Baxter twice and Justice Chin once.  In 2004, Justice Kennard dissented ten times in criminal cases.  Justice Brown dissented six times, Justice Chin twice and Justices Werdegar and Moreno once each.  In 2005, Justice Kennard dissented seven times in criminal cases.  Justice Baxter dissented three times, and Justices Brown, Werdegar, Chin and Moreno twice apiece.

In 2006, Justices Werdegar and Baxter were tied for the court-wide lead in dissents in criminal cases with six each.  Justice Kennard dissented four times, Justice Moreno three and Justices Corrigan and Chin twice apiece.   Dissents were quite rare in criminal cases in 2007: Justice Kennard dissented five times and Justices Werdegar and Moreno twice apiece.

Table 128

We report the average length of the Justices’ dissents in criminal cases in Table 129.  Although Justice Kennard generally was the most frequent dissenter, many other Justices generally wrote longer dissents.  In 2000, Chief Justice George’s criminal dissents averaged 16 pages. Justice Chin averaged 13 pages, Justice Kennard 8.2, Justice Baxter 8 pages, Justice Brown 7 and Justice Mosk 6.17 pages.  For 2001, Justice Brown averaged the longest dissents, averaging 13.5 pages.  Justice Chin’s average dissent was eight pages.  Chief Justice George averaged six pages, Justice Kennard five and Justice Mosk three.  For 2002, Justice Chin led the Court, averaging 11.5 pages in criminal dissents.  Justice Brown averaged 11.33 pages, Justice Baxter 11 pages, Justice Moreno 9.6 pages, Justice Kennard 8.27 pages and Chief Justice George 7 pages.  For 2003, Justice Chin led with an average dissent in criminal cases of 19 pages.  Justice Baxter averaged 14 pages, Justice Moreno 10.33 pages, Justice Kennard 9 pages, Justice Werdegar 7.5 pages and Justice Brown 6.5 pages.  In 2004, a 72-page dissent in one case drove Justice Chin’s average dissent to 43.5 pages.  Justice Moreno averaged 19 pages, Justice Kennard averaged 7.6 pages, Justice Corrigan averaged 6.67 pages and Justice Werdegar averaged two pages.

For 2005, Justice Moreno led the Court, averaging 15 pages per criminal dissent.  Justice Chin was next at 12.5 pages.  Justice Baxter was next with 11.33 pages.  Justice Werdegar averaged ten pages, Justice Kennard 9.29 pages and Justice Brown averaged three pages.  For 2006t, Justice Chin led, averaging 21 pages.  Justice Baxter was second at 11.17 pages.  Justices Kennard (9 pages), Moreno (7 pages) and Corrigan (5 pages) all tended to write very short criminal dissents.  For 2007, Justice Kennard led the Court with an average criminal dissent of 7.2 pages.  Justice Moreno was next at 6.5 pages, and Justice Werdegar averaged 4.5 pages.

Table 129

Join us back here next Thursday morning as we turn our attention to the Justices’ dissents in civil and criminal cases between 2008 and 2015.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Harold Litwiler (no changes).

Tracking the Justices’ Dissents in Civil Cases, 2000-2007

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Last week, we wrapped up our analysis of the California Supreme Court’s history with amicus briefs.  Today, we begin a new topic, tracking which Justices have most frequently dissented, and which Justices tend to write, year by year, the longest and shortest dissents.

In Table 126 below, we report the yearly distribution of dissents in civil cases among the Justices.  In 2000, Justices Kennard and Mosk dissented eight times in civil cases.  Chief Justice George dissented six times, Justice Werdegar five times, Justice Brown four times and Justice Chin once.  In 2001, Justice Werdegar led the Court, dissenting six times in civil cases.  Justices Brown and Kennard dissented five times, and Chief Justice George and Justices Baxter and Mosk dissented twice apiece.  For 2002, Justice Brown led the Court with ten dissents.  Justice Werdegar was next, dissenting four times.  Justice Kennard dissented three times, Justices Baxter and Moreno twice and Justice Chin once.  In 2003, Justice Brown once again led the Court with seven dissents.  Justice Baxter dissented six times.  Justice Chin dissented three times, Justices Moreno and Kennard twice each and Justice Werdegar once.  For 2004, Justice Brown once again led the Court, dissenting eight times in civil cases.  Justice Kennard dissented seven times.  Justices Chin and Baxter dissented four times, Justice Werdegar three times and Justice Moreno once.

Dissents were comparatively rare in 2005 and 2006.  In 2004, Justice Kennard led with four civil dissents.  Chief Justice George and Justices Werdegar, Chin and Baxter dissented twice each, and Justice Brown once.  In 2006, Justice Kennard led with six dissents.  Justice Moreno dissented five times, Justice Werdegar three times and Justice Corrigan twice.  Finally, in 2007 Justice Kennard led with nine dissents in civil cases.  Justice Chin dissented five times, Justices Werdegar and Baxter four times apiece, Justice Corrigan three times and Justice Moreno once.

Table 126

In Table 127, we report the average length of each Justice’s dissents during each year.  This data should be treated with a certain degree of caution: since Justices frequently dissent only a few times a year, what is really a random difference can have a considerable impact on the yearly averages.

For 2000, Chief Justice George’s civil dissents averaged 21.67 pages.  Justice Werdegar averaged 18 pages.  Justice Chin averaged 12 pages, Justice Kennard 10.88 pages, Justice Brown 10.25 pages, and Justice Mosk 5.13 pages.  For 2001, the longest civil dissents were written by Justices Baxter and Werdegar (17.5 and 15.33 pages, respectively), and Chief Justice George (13.5 pages).  Justice Brown averaged 9.4 pages, Justice Mosk averaged 8.5 pages and Justice Kennard averaged 7.4 pages.  Justice Baxter once again averaged the longest civil dissents in 2002, averaging 24 pages.  Justice Chin averaged 11 pages and Justice Moreno 10 pages.  The remaining Justices’ average dissents were all less than ten pages – Justice Brown (9.5 pages), Justice Werdegar (7.25 pages) and Justice Kennard (6 pages).

In 2003, Justice Chin led the Court with an average civil dissent of 23.67 pages.  Justice Moreno was next with 15.5 pages.  Justice Baxter’s dissents averaged 12.33 pages, Justice Brown averaged 12 pages, Justice Werdegar averaged 11 pages and Justice Kennard averaged 6.5 pages.  Justice Chin led the Court again in 2004 with an average civil dissent of 16.75 pages.  Among the remaining Justices, only Justice Werdegar averaged more than ten pages per dissent – 11.67.  The other Justices’ dissents were very short – Justices Brown (8.88 pages); Kennard (7.29 pages); Baxter (7.25 pages) and Moreno (7 pages).  For 2005, Justice Chin’s civil dissents once again led the Court, averaging 20.5 pages.  Chief Justice George averaged 13 pages, Justice Baxter 11 pages, Justice Werdegar 9.5 pages and Justice Kennard 4.75 pages.  Justice Brown’s single civil dissent was one page.  For 2006, Justice Moreno’s dissents averaged 12.2 pages.  Justice Kennard was second at eight pages, Justice Werdegar averaged 6.33 pages and Justice Corrigan’s dissents averaged 5.5 pages.  Dissents were on average somewhat longer in 2007.  Justice Moreno led the Court with an average dissent of 19 pages.  Justice Chin averaged 16 pages.  Justice Baxter averaged 11.75 pages, Justice Werdegar averaged 10.25 pages, Justice Kennard averaged 6.44 pages and Justice Corrigan’s civil dissents averaged 5.67 pages.

Table 127

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Justices’ dissents in criminal cases between 2000 and 2007.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Carol Norquist (no changes).

 

Tracking the California Supreme Court’s Experience With Amicus Briefs in Criminal Cases (2008-2015)

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Yesterday, we reviewed the California Supreme Court’s experience with amicus curiae briefs in civil cases between 2008 and 2015.  Today, we conclude this topic with a review of the Court’s criminal cases during the same years.

Just as was true for the years 2000 to 2007, amicus briefs have been nowhere near as commonplace in criminal cases as they are in civil matters.  In 2008, the Court received only 3 amicus briefs in non-unanimous criminal cases and 31 in unanimous ones.  In 2009, the Court accepted 8 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 29 in unanimous decisions.  For 2010, the Court accepted 13 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 23 in unanimous cases.  For 2011, amicus briefs dwindled to nearly nothing on the criminal side – 1 in non-unanimous decisions and 7 in unanimous cases.  For 2012, the Court accepted 10 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 29 in unanimous ones.  The following year, the Court accepted 14 amicus briefs in unanimous criminal cases, but none in non-unanimous ones.  For 2014, the Court accepted 3 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases, but 35 in unanimous decisions.  Last year, the Court accepted 9 amicus briefs in non-unanimous criminal cases and 12 in unanimous cases.

Table 124

Turning to the per-case averages, one result is evident: dissent on the Court is not as highly correlated with heavy amicus traffic as it is on the civil side.  For 2008, the Court averaged 0.38 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases, and 0.53 in unanimous decisions.  The next year, the Court accepted 0.67 briefs in non-unanimous cases and 0.59 in unanimous ones.  Amicus briefs topped out at 1.18 for non-unanimous cases in 2010; the Court averaged only 0.39 in unanimous decisions.  For 2011, amicus briefs almost zeroed out – only 0.07 average in non-unanimous cases, 0.19 average in unanimous cases.

For 2012, the Court averaged 0.63 amicus briefs in non-unanimous criminal cases, 0.48 in unanimous ones.  In 2013, there were no amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 0.34 in unanimous ones.  In 2014, the Court averaged 0.33 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases, 0.74 in unanimous ones.  Last year, the Court averaged 0.82 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 0.38 in unanimous cases.

Table 125

Join us back here next Thursday as we begin our analysis of a new topic in our ongoing analytics work.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Paul Hamilton (no changes).

Tracking the California Supreme Court’s Experience With Amicus Briefs in Civil Cases (2008-2015)

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Last week, we began our analysis of a new issue, tracking the California Supreme Court’s considerable experience with amicus curiae briefs in both civil and criminal cases.  Last week, we covered the years 2000 through 2007.  Today, we turn our attention to civil cases from 2008 to 2015.

In Table 122, we report the total number of briefs the Court accepted in civil cases, year by year and divided between non-unanimous and unanimous decisions.  For 2008, the Court accepted 69 briefs in cases decided non-unanimously, and 124 briefs in unanimous cases.  For 2009, the numbers were nearly equal – 98 briefs in non-unanimous cases, 100 in unanimous cases.  The following year, the two sides diverged again – the Court accepted 28 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 124 in unanimous cases.  In 2011, the Court accepted 46 extra briefs in non-unanimous cases and 80 in unanimous cases.

In 2012, the Court accepted 42 amicus briefs in non-unanimous civil cases, and 88 in unanimous ones.  For 2013, the Court accepted 31 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 100 in unanimous cases.  For 2014, the numbers were once again relatively close, as the Court accepted 55 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions and 64 in unanimous cases.  Last year, the Court accepted 29 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 94 in unanimous ones.

Table 122

We report the per-case averages for this data in Table 123.  Note that in most recent years, the Court has averaged more amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases than in unanimous ones – likely because controversial and complex issues tend to attract both amicus briefs and dissent.  For 2008, the Court averaged 7.67 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 4.13 in unanimous ones.  These averages are influenced by two outliers – In re Marriage Cases, in which the Court accepted 46 amicus briefs, and City of Hope National Medical Center v. Genentech, Inc., in which the Court accepted 18.

The data was equally impacted in 2009 by an outlier case – Strauss v. Horton, in which the Court accepted 62 amicus briefs.  For the year, the Court averaged 14 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 2.71 in unanimous ones.  In 2010, the Court averaged 3.11 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 3.88 in unanimous ones.  The next year, the Court accepted 5.75 briefs in non-unanimous cases and 3.2 in unanimous decisions.  For 2012, the Court averaged six amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, and 4.63 in unanimous decisions.  For 2013, the Court accepted 3.88 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions and 4.17 in unanimous cases.  For 2014, the Court averaged 7.86 amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases and 4 in unanimous decisions.  Last year, amicus briefs were nearly as high, averaging 7.25 in non-unanimous cases and 3.36 in unanimous cases.

Table 123

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s experience with amicus briefs in criminal cases during these same years.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Damian Gadal (no changes).

Tracking the California Supreme Court’s Experience With Amicus Briefs in Criminal Cases (2000-2007)

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Yesterday, we began a detailed look at the California Supreme Court’s extensive experience with amicus curiae briefs, beginning with civil cases between 2000 and 2007.  Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s less extensive experience with amicus briefs in criminal cases.

In Table 120 below, we report the total number of amicus briefs accepted by the Court in criminal cases between 2000 and 2007, divided between non-unanimous and unanimous decisions.  Between 2000 and 2001, the Court accepted few criminal amicus briefs.  In 2000, the Court accepted two amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, and twelve in unanimous decisions.  In 2001, the Court accepted three briefs in non-unanimous criminal cases, and 24 in unanimous decisions.  The following year, amicus briefs took a sudden jump, with the Court accepting 34 briefs in non-unanimous cases, and 28 in unanimous decisions.  The following year, amicus briefs were down somewhat, but still comparatively high, as the Court accepted 14 briefs in non-unanimous decisions and 11 in unanimous cases.  In 2004, the Court accepted eight amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, but 16 in unanimous ones.  The following year, the Court accepted nine briefs in non-unanimous decisions and 19 in unanimous cases.  Amicus briefs dropped sharply in 2006, to four in non-unanimous cases and three in unanimous ones, but were up somewhat the following year.  Although the Court accepted only one amicus brief in a non-unanimous criminal decision, it accepted 25 in unanimous cases.

Table 120

We report the average number of amicus briefs per case in Table 121 below.  We see that amicus briefs are quite rare across the spectrum of criminal cases.  In 2000, the Court averaged only 0.25 amicus briefs for each criminal case.  In 2001, the Court accepted 0.47 briefs per case.  The following year, the Court accepted 0.9 briefs per case.  Between 2003 and 2005, the average number of amicus briefs per case was flat – 0.4 in 2003, 0.33 in 2004 and 0.47 in 2005.  In 2006, amicus briefs fell to almost nothing – an average of 0.13 per case.  The following year, the average returned to its trend level, as the Court received 0.43 amicus briefs for each criminal case.

Table 121

Join us back here next Thursday as we turn our attention to the Court’s experience with amicus briefs between 2008 and 2015.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Harold Litwiler (no changes).

 

Tracking the California Supreme Court’s Experience With Amicus Briefs in Civil Cases (2000-2007)

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Today, we begin our analysis of a new subject – tracking the California Supreme Court’s experience with amicus curiae briefs.  The Court more closely tracks the experience of the United States Supreme Court than of other state Supreme Courts (including the Illinois Supreme Court, as reported in our Illinois Supreme Court Review) in its open-handed approach to amicus briefs.  Note that we consider multiple parties joining in a single brief to be a single amicus in our data below.

In Table 118 below, we report the total number of amicus briefs the Court has accepted each year in civil cases, divided between non-unanimous and unanimous decisions.  Not surprisingly, amicus briefs are quite common in cases which the Court winds up deciding with one or more dissents.  In 2000, amicus briefs in non-unanimous cases outnumbered briefs in unanimous cases 112 to 80.  The following year, the Court permitted 63 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, and 88 in unanimous ones.  The following year, the two sides of the docket were evenly split – 69 briefs in non-unanimous decisions, 70 in unanimous ones.  In 2003, the Court accepted 83 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, and 110 in unanimous ones.  The following year, amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions outnumbered briefs in unanimous decisions 95 to 79.  In 2005, the trend reversed itself – the Court accepted 59 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions to 157 in unanimous cases.  For 2006, the Court accepted 42 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, and 131 in unanimous cases.  For 2007, briefs were evenly split – 91 amicus briefs in non-unanimous decisions, 91 in unanimous decisions.

Table 118

We report the average amicus briefs per case in Table 119 below.  In 2000, the Court accepted an average of 3.84 additional briefs per case in civil matters. In 2001, the figure dipped slightly, to 3.15 briefs, and further still in 2002, to 2.9.  For 2003, amicus briefs increased to an average of 5.68 per case.  The following year, the Court accepted 3.35 additional briefs in each civil case.  For 2005, the average increased to 4.32 amicus briefs.  The pace of amicus briefs declined a bit in the following two years.  In 2006, the Court accepted 3.26 additional briefs per civil matter.  For 2007, the Court accepted 3.33 amicus briefs for each civil matter.

Table 119

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s experience with amicus briefs in criminal cases between 2000 and 2007.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Scrubhiker (no changes).

Are Majority Opinions Getting Longer In Automatic Death Penalty Appeals (Part 2 – 2008-2015)?

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Yesterday, we demonstrated that majority opinions have been getting somewhat longer on average in criminal cases at the California Supreme Court since 2007.  Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s majority opinions in automatic death penalty appeals.  These two inquiries are not entirely independent; yesterday we were working with overall criminal docket data, including the death penalty appeals.  However, in most years non-death cases significantly outnumber death penalty appeals, so it seems unlikely that trends in death penalty cases could completely explain changes in overall criminal opinions.

Nevertheless, the average majority opinion in death penalty cases has been edging up in recent years.  Between 2001 and 2005, majority opinions in death penalty cases were typically between 55 and 75 pages.  For example, in 2001, non-unanimous death penalty appeals averaged 76 pages to 80.4 in unanimous decisions.  In 2002, non-unanimous majorities averaged 55 pages to 74.11 for unanimous decisions.  In 2003, non-unanimous majorities averaged 70.67 pages to 61.75 for unanimous majorities.  In 2004, non-unanimous majorities averaged 73 pages to 62.53 for unanimous decisions.  In 2005, non-unanimous majorities averaged 55 pages to 77.32 for unanimous decisions.

We report the data for death penalty majority opinions between 2008 and 2015 in Table 117 below.  Opinion length was fairly flat in 2008 and 2009.  In 2008, non-unanimous majorities averaged 58.33 pages to 76.22 pages for unanimous decisions.  The next year, non-unanimous majorities were only slightly shorter, averaging 57.67 pages.  Unanimous majorities averaged 70.86 pages.  In the years since, non-unanimous majority opinions have increased in length somewhat, although unanimous majority opinions remained at about the same level.  In 2010, non-unanimous majority opinions averaged 112.5 pages, to 81.41 for unanimous majorities.  In 2011, non-unanimous majorities averaged 85.43 pages to 60.68 for unanimous decisions.  In 2012, non-unanimous majorities averaged 71 pages to 76.52 for unanimous decisions.

In 2013, non-unanimous majority opinions averaged 103 pages in death penalty appeals.  Unanimous majorities averaged 86.53 pages – a definite increase over the long-term trend.  In 2014, non-unanimous majority opinions averaged 90.5 pages to 83.75 pages for unanimous opinions.  Interestingly, in 2015, with two new members on the Court, the average length of majority opinions declined sharply.  Non-unanimous majority opinions averaged 68.75 pages, the lowest level since 2009.  Unanimous majority opinions averaged 60.46 pages – their lowest level since 2011.

Table 117

Join us back here next Thursday as we begin our consideration of a new issue in our continuing analysis of the decision-making of the California Supreme Court.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Gavin Johnson (no changes).

Are Majority Opinions Getting Longer in Criminal Cases (Part 2 – 2008-2015)?

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For the past two weeks, we’ve been tracking trends in the length of majority opinions at the California Supreme Court.  Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s criminal opinions during the years 2008 to 2015.

In the title, we ask whether majority opinions are getting longer in criminal cases.  The answer is yes.  As we showed earlier, majority opinions between 2000 and 2007 typically averaged in the low thirties.  For example, in 2001, non-unanimous majority opinions averaged 26.11 pages to 31.45 pages for unanimous opinions.  The next year, non-unanimous opinions averaged 38.14 pages to 30.02 pages for unanimous opinions.  In 2003, non-unanimous opinions averaged 34.22 pages to 34.83 for unanimous opinions.  In 2004, non-unanimous opinions averaged 29.87 pages to 35.44 pages for unanimous opinions.  The first indications that opinions were getting longer came in 2007, when non-unanimous majority opinions jumped to 51.38 pages.

Once again, there was no consistent relationship for criminal cases between non-unanimous and unanimous decisions.  In 2008, majority opinions in non-unanimous criminal cases averaged 36.88 pages to 43.18 for unanimous decisions.  The following year, opinions were somewhat shorter; non-unanimous majorities averaged 32 pages, to 41.86 for unanimous decisions.  In 2010, both non-unanimous and unanimous majorities averaged above forty pages – 40.91 for non-unanimous decisions, 44 for unanimous decisions.  In 2011, non-unanimous majorities averaged 54.85 pages to 40.73 for unanimous majorities.  The following year, opinions were shorter, falling to 27.87 pages for non-unanimous majorities and 42.93 pages for unanimous decisions.  But in 2013 and the years since, opinions became longer again.  In 2013, non-unanimous majorities averaged 45.89 pages to 46.68 for unanimous majorities.  In 2014, non-unanimous majority opinions averaged 52.78 pages to 48.39 for unanimous majority opinions.  Last year, majority opinions in non-unanimous criminal cases averaged 42.91 pages, to 36.67 for unanimous majority opinions.

Table 116

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s majority opinions in automatic death penalty appeals between 2008 and 2015.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Brewbooks (no changes).

Are Majority Opinions in Civil Cases Getting Longer (Part 2 – 2008-2015)?

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Last week, we began our analysis of the length of the Court’s majority opinions, addressing civil and criminal cases between 2000 and 2007.  Yesterday, we reviewed the Court’s majority opinions in death penalty appeals for the same period.  Today, we turn our attention to majority opinions in civil cases between 2008 and 2015.

Overall, there is evidence that the Court’s majority opinions are getting longer in civil cases.  Between 2000 and 2004, majority opinions in non-unanimous civil cases averaged 27.21 pages, 26.25 pages, 23.17 pages, 26 pages and 26.61 pages. Majority opinions in unanimous civil cases averaged somewhat less: 22.96 pages, 23.69 pages, 19.89 pages, 22.54 pages and 20.59 pages.  Between 2005 and 2007, majority opinions in non-unanimous cases started to get a bit longer, rising to 30.6 pages in 2005, but majorities in unanimous cases didn’t follow suit.

Non-unanimous majorities were up to 32.78 pages in 2008. Unanimous majorities that year averaged 24.33 pages. For 2009, majorities in non-unanimous decisions reached their highest level of the sixteen-year study period, averaging 41.29 pages.  Average majorities in unanimous decisions were down to 20.27 pages.  For 2010, majority opinions in non-unanimous cases were down to 22.44 pages, but unanimous majorities were up somewhat to 26.58 pages.

From 2011 through 2014, majority opinions in non-unanimous civil decisions got longer each year.  In 2011, non-unanimous majorities averaged 28.88 pages. Unanimous majorities were down to 22.2 pages. Non-unanimous majorities were up a bit more in 2012 to 29 pages.  Unanimous majorities were up to 27.53 pages. In 2013, non-unanimous majority opinions were up to 34.29 pages.  Unanimous majority opinions were down to 24.84 pages.  In 2014, majority opinions in non-unanimous civil decisions were up again, averaging 36 pages. Unanimous majority opinions were down slightly to 23.63 pages. Finally, in 2015, majority opinions in non-unanimous civil cases averaged 31.25 pages.  Majority opinions in unanimous civil decisions were only four pages shorter, averaging 27.14 pages.

Table 115

Join us back here next Thursday as we turn our attention to majority opinions in criminal cases between 2008 and 2015.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Franco Folini (no changes).

 

Are Majority Opinions in Automatic Death Penalty Appeals Getting Longer (Part 1 – 2000-2007)?

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Last week, we began addressing trends in the length of the Court’s majority opinions, reviewing civil and criminal majority opinions between 2000 and 2007.  Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s majority opinions in automatic death penalty appeals, with the data divided between non-unanimous and unanimous opinions.

As we show in Table 114 below, majority opinions in non-unanimous death penalty cases are not reliably longer than majorities in unanimously decided cases.  Nor were majority opinions getting longer during this period.  For 2000, non-unanimous majorities averaged 83.67 pages to 73.92 for unanimous decisions.  The next year, non-unanimous majorities were down a bit to 76 pages, while unanimous majorities were up about ten percent to 80.4 pages.  In 2002, non-unanimous majorities averaged 55 pages.  Unanimous majority opinions averaged 74.11 pages.  For 2003, non-unanimous majority opinions were back up to 70.67 pages.  Unanimous majority opinions were down to 61.75 pages.

In 2004, majority opinions in non-unanimous cases were up slightly to 73 pages, while unanimous decisions were flat at 62.53 pages. For 2005, non-unanimous majority decisions were down significantly to 55 pages, while unanimous majority opinions rose to an average of 77.32 pages.  For 2006, both sides of the ledger were up.  Non-unanimous majorities averaged 84.67 pages, while unanimous majority opinions averaged 88.75 pages.  Finally, in 2007, non-unanimous majority decisions were down slightly to 76.5 pages.  Unanimous majority opinions were down by about one-quarter, to an average of 64.74 pages.

Table 114

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to civil decisions from 2008 to 2015.

Image courtesy of Flickr by William Garrett (no changes).

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