Who Was the Bellwether Vote in Divided Criminal Cases (1990-2004)?

Last week, we reviewed the data for how often each Justice of the Court voted with the majority in divided civil cases.  This time, we’re on the flipside – how often did each Justice vote with the majority in divided criminal cases?  First, we review the years 1990 to 2004.

Justice Arabian had a very high votes with majority rate for his final years on the Court – 87.5% in 1990, 100% in 1991, 1993 and 1995, 95.65% in 1992 and 95.83% in 1994.  Only in his part year of 1996, when his rate was 50%, did he decline.  Aside from a short lull from 1997 to 2000, Justice Baxter was quite high as well – 96% in 1991, 100% in 1992 and 1993, 83.33% in 1994, 90% in 1995 and 93.75% in 1996, followed by 75% in 1997 and 1998, 89.47% in 1999 and 70.59% in 200 – then 100% in 2002 and 2004, 91.3% in 2002 and 85% in 2003.

Justice Broussard’s agreement rate was typically low – 24% in 1990 and 55% in 1991.  Justice Brown’s, on the other hand, was relatively high – 88.89% in 1996, 75% in 1997 ad 1998, 63.16% in 1999, 76.47% in 2000, 80% in 2001, 73.91% in 2002, 80% in 2003 and 62.5% in 2004.  Justice Chin was quite high throughout – in the nineties four times (90.91% in 1996, 94.12% in 2000, 90% in 2001 and 91.67% in 2002), in the eighties four times (87.5% in 1997, 80% in 1998, 85% in 2003 and 87.5% in 2004 and 100% once (1999).

In 1990, Justice Eagleson voted with the majority in divided criminal cases 90% of the time.  Justice (and later Chief Justice George’s rate was quite high again – at 100% five times (1991-1993 and 1998-1999), in the nineties five times (1994-1995, 1997, 2001 and 2004), and in the eighties three times (1996, 2000, 2003).  Justice Kaufman voted with the majority 50% of the time in 1990.  Justice Kennard was in the sixties eight times (1991-1996, 2001 and 2003) and between thirty and fifty-five times (fifties in 1997, forties in 1999-2000 and 2002, and thirties in 2004).  Chief Justice Lucas was consistently high – in the nineties three times (1991, 1993 and 1995) and at 100% three times (1992, 1994 and 1996).

In Table 770, we review the data for Justices Moreno, Mosk, Panelli and Werdegar, as well as an aggregate figure for all the Court’s pro tems.  Justice Moreno voted with the majority in divided criminal cases 62.5% of the time in 2002, 75% in 2003 and 93.75% in 2004.  With only one exception (1998 – 75%), Justice Mosk’s rate was quite low – 28% in 1990, 34.62% in 1991, 21.74% in 1992, 16.13% in 1993, 37.5% in 1994, 30% in 1995, 43.75% in 1996, 25% in 1997, 26.32% in 1999, 52.94% in 2000 and 37.5% in 2001.  Justice Panelli’s voting with the majority rate was always high – 96% in 1990, 96.15% in 1991, 100% in 1992 and 1994 and 87.1% in 1993.  With only one real outlier in 1997 (62.5%), Justice Werdegar also generally agreed with divided majorities during these years.  She was in the seventies four times (1999-2001 and 2004) and in the eighties four times (1995, 1998 and 2002-2003).

The pro tem Justices were generally quite high too.  In 1990, pro tems voted with the majority in divided criminal cases 71.43% of the time.  In 1991, the rate was 100%.  The pro tems were at 85.71% in 1994, 100% in 1995, 50% in 1996 and 66.67% in 2002.

Join us here next time as we finish up our consideration of votes with the majority in divided cases.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Sheila Sund (no changes).

Who Was the Bellwether Vote in Divided Civil Cases (2005-2018)?

Which Justices of the California Supreme Court are most likely to be in the majority in civil cases which draw dissents?  Or to put it in a more practice-driven way – if you’re expecting a contentious case, which Justices’ votes are the likeliest indication of how the majority might come out?  Last time, we reviewed the data for civil cases between 1990 and 2004.  Now, let’s bring the data all the way up to the present day – 2005-2018.

In Table 766, we review the data for six of the thirteen Justices who have sat on at least one divided civil case since 2005 – Justices Baxter and Brown, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Chin, Corrigan and Cuellar.  Justice Baxter’s rate was consistently quite high almost across the board, save only 2007 and 2013.  In 2007, he was in the sixties, but eight times he was in the seventies (2005 and 2008-2011), eighties (2014), nineties (2006) or at one hundred percent (2012).  In her last year on the Court, Justice Brown joined the majority in divided civil cases two-thirds of the time.

In our last post, we showed that Chief Justice George was one of the most reliable predictors of how a divided Court would go, routinely voting with the winning side in eighty percent or more of all cases.  Chief Justice George’s successor, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, has continued that trend voting with the majority in every divided case in 2012, 2013 and 2014, in 91.67% in 2016 and in the eighties in 2011 and 2017.  She has been below that level only twice in her tenure: 75% in 2015 and in the outlier year of 2018, when there were virtually no divided civil cases, 50%.  Justice Chin’s rate was a bit below the Chief Justice’s, but fairly consistent with the early years of his tenure: nine times he was been at seventy percent or more agreement with the majority in a divided civil case – in the seventies in 2005, 2008, and 2010-2011, in the eighties in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2017, and at 100% in 2006.  Only five times has he been below seventy percent – in the sixties in 2007 and 2016, the fifties in 2015 and 2018, and at forty percent in 2013.  Justice Corrigan’s numbers are quite similar.  Nine times she has been at seventy percent or more – four times in the seventies (2007-2008, 2011 and 2017), three in the eighties (2006, 2009 and 2012) and twice at 100% (2014 and 2018),  Only four times has she been below the seventy percent level – twice in the sixties (2013 and 2016) and twice in the fifties (2010 and 2015).  Justice Cuellar joined the majority in divided cases seventy-five percent of the time in 2015, 100% in 2016, seventy percent in 2017 and half in 2018.

Next, we address the last seven seats on the Court – Chief Justice George, Justices Kennard, Kruger, Liu, Moreno and Werdegar, and a composite number for the Justices pro tem sitting for a single case where there’s an unfilled vacancy or a recusal.

As we noted above (and last time), Chief Justice George’s majority rate was consistently very high during the years 1990 to 2004.  That continued in the final years of his tenure.  The Chief Justice was at 80% in 2005 and 77.78% in 2010, but in between those years, he was at 92.86% in 2006, 95.24% in 2007 and 100% in 2008 and 2009.  Reviewing the years 1990 to 2004, we showed that Justice Kennard’s rate was fairly low during the earlier part of the period and fairly high during the latter part.  That was true again from 2005 to her retirement.  Between 2005 and 2009, Justice Kennard was in the forties once (2006), the fifties three times (2050, 2007 and 2009) and the sixties only once (2008).  But after that, her rate reached the seventies three times (2010-2011 and 2013) and 100% in 2014.  Justice Kruger’s rate of voting in the majority has been slightly lower than expected – seventy-five percent in 2015, 58.33% in 2016 and sixty percent in 2017.

Justice Liu’s rate of agreement has also been comparatively low – 71.43% in 2012 and 2014, 50% in 2015 and 2018, 70% in 2017 and 83.33% in 2016.  Justice Moreno’s rate of voting with the majority in divided civil cases was surprisingly low too.  In four of the eight years of the period where he participated in divided civil cases, his rate of voting with the majority was between fifty and sixty percent (2006 and 2008-2010).  Overall, Justice Werdegar’s agreement rate was fairly high; she was in the seventies four times (2008, 2012, 2015-2016), in the eighties three (2005, 2009 and 2017) and at 100% twice (2011 and 2013).  On the other hand, she was between forty and sixty percent four times – in the forties once (2014), in the fifties twice (2006 and 2010) and in the sixties once (2007).

Finally, we have the pro tems.  Pro tems generally voted with the majority in the few divided cases in which they sat during these years: 100% in 2006-2007, 2009-2010 and 2012, 75% in 2013, 66.67% in 2011 and 2016-2017 and 50% in 2005 and 2018.  The only outlier was 2014, when pro tems joined the majority in only 25% of divided cases.

At the outset of our last post, we wondered whether it was possible to fashion the beginnings of a model for close cases by combining questioning data from the oral arguments with agreement-with-the-majority rates for divided decisions.  Does it actually work?

There is insight to be had here, so long as attorneys and clients keep constantly in mind the limitations of all litigation analytics.  Say you’re at an oral argument.  You count the questions to each side – 25 to the appellant, 21 to the respondent.  Justice X, who typically averages around 6 questions per argument, asks the appellant 14 questions and the respondent 9.  You consult the data and discover that Justice X votes with the majority in divided civil cases, for the most part, between seventy and eighty percent of the time.

Conclusion: the Court’s decision is likely to be an affirmance – Justice X appears to be voting to affirm, the majority seems to agree (although a close vote seems possible), and Justice X is generally in the majority when the Court is split.  And that’s a reasonable prediction, which would be possible to quantify more precisely with a complete dataset.

So what’s the caution?  It’s a variation on the principle of reversion to the mean.  Try this example (which I’m taking from an old episode of Numbers about a random sniper case): you crumple a piece of paper and shoot it towards your trash can.  You miss.  But then you do it ten more times, hitting the last seven in a row.  What will the next one be?  It’s psychologically tempting to say “hit” – hey, you’re on a roll.  But you’d be wrong.  Although it’s possible to hit seven shots in a row, if you sit there long enough to take a hundred shots – or five hundred – or a thousand – your hit rate will converge very close to 50%.  But that doesn’t enable us to predict with certainty what a single random shot out of the series will do.

All litigation analytics are based on datasets of hundreds of thousands of data points and up (the California and Illinois datasets on which our blogs are based are both around a quarter million data points).  Across dozens or hundreds of cases, our observations will zero in on the result predicted by the database: the party questioned more heavily will generally lose, the Court will reverse in a certain percentage of its cases, and certain groups of Justices will agree quite often.  But that doesn’t mean that if we pluck out a single case out of all those observations, an unexpected result is impossible.

Litigation analytics becomes more omnipresent in the profession every day, and that’s a good thing.  But they do have traps for the unwary, and it’s important that lawyers (and clients) understand what the numbers do and don’t mean.  Predictive algorithms are coming (and are already here, in some cases), but highly reliable ones will likely have to await further refinements in technology.

Join us back here on Thursday as we turn our attention to the numbers in the Court’s criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by hutntut (no changes).

Who Was the Bellwether Vote in Divided Civil Cases (1990-2004)?

We’ve shown several times, both on this blog and on our sister blog, the Illinois Supreme Court Review, that there are two key insights one can gain from oral argument: who is likely to win, and how each Justice is likely to vote.

Is it possible to refine the model further to where we can make a reasonable inference as to the likely winner merely by counting a single Justice’s questions?

Here’s the theory: step one, count the questions of each Justice and the entire Court.  The party which gets the most questions is more likely to lose – as the margin increases, the likelihood of the more heavily questioned party winning falls.  If a particular Justice asks significantly more questions of one side than the other – particularly if he or she substantially exceeds their trend level of questions – then the Justice is likely voting against the more heavily questioned party, and if he or she is well above trend, the Justice is likely writing an opinion.

Step two: once we determine whether a Justice is likely voting against the appellant or respondent, we look at the percentage of the Court’s divided opinions in which that Justice has voted with the majority.  If the Justice appears to be voting against the appellant and is highly likely to be in the majority of a divided opinion, then we can infer that the Court may well be affirming.  If the reverse, then the Court may well be reversing.  So let’s review the yearly data on how often each Justice was in the majority of divided decisions in civil cases from 1990 to 2018.

A few ground rules: in order to keep the math relatively simple, a Justice is defined as being in the majority if he or she agrees completely with the judgment – even if the Justice files a separate opinion saying “I agree with the result, but not with any of the majority’s reasoning.”  So if the majority affirms and an individual Justice votes to affirm in part and reverse in part, that’s not counted as being in the majority.  Second, in order to avoid making these numbers artificially high (since the Court is typically unanimous in anywhere from 55 to 65% of its cases), we limit the data to non-unanimous decisions.  Because we’re trying to answer a question about the individual Justices as opposed to the evolution of the Court, contrary to our usual practice, we arrange the tables by Justice to make it easier to see trends.

In Table 764, we report the data for five of the fifteen Justices who served on the Court between 1990 and 1997: Arabian, Baxter, Broussard, Brown and Chin.  Justice Arabian was closely aligned with the majority of the Court during these years.  With the exception of 1993, when he voted with the majority in divided civil cases 77.78% of the time, his rate was in the eighties four times (1990, 1992, 1994 and 1995) and 100% in 1996 (we don’t attribute that much significance to the numbers from Justices’ first and last years on the Court, since these data points are typically based on relatively few cases).  Justice Baxter started out our study period closely aligned with the majority too, voting in the majority more than ninety percent of the time from 1991 to 1993 and over eighty percent the next two years.  But with the exception of a blip from 1999 to 2001, his rate drifted downward after that – scoring in the seventies in 1996, 1998 and 2002 and in the sixties in 2003 and 2004.

Justice Broussard was far less often in the majority of divided cases during his two final years on the Court.  In 1990, he voted with the majority 52.17% of the time, and in his 1991 part-year, he did so only 23.53%.  Justice Brown was a relatively frequent dissenter as well, ranking in the fifties in 1997, 1999 and 2003, and in the sixties in 2002 and 2004 (although she joined the majority 72.41% of the time in 1998, eighty-four percent in 2000 and 71.43% in 2001).  Justice Chin’s rate of siding with the majority was comparatively high – in the seventies in 1997, 1999 and 2002-2004 and in the eighties in 1998 and 2000.

In the next table, we review five more Justices – Eagleson, Justice (and later Chief Justice) George, Kaufman, Kennard and Lucas.  In his final year on the Court, Justice Eagleson voted with the majority in divided civil cases 86.96% of the time.  Chief Justice George’s rate was very high throughout – in the seventies twice (1995 and 2000), in the eighties three times (1993, 2001 and 2003), in the nineties six times (1992, 1994, 1996, 1998-1999 and 2002), and 100% three times (his part-year in 1991 ,1997 and 2004).  Justice Kaufman’s rate was 100% in his final divided civil cases in 1990.  Justice Kennard’s rate went through two phases – from 1991 to 1997, she was in the fifties five times (1992-1994 and 1996-1997) and in the sixties once.  But after 1997, she was in the seventies four times (1998-1999, 2001 and 2004), in the eighties in 2002 and the nineties in 2003.  Chief Justice Lucas was nearly always in the majority in divided cases between 1990 and 1994 (in the nineties in 1990 and 1992-1994 and 100% in 1991), but he drifted down a bit in the final two years on the Court (79.31% in 1995 and 75% in 1996).

Finally, we review the 1990-2004 data for Justices Moreno, Mosk, Panelli and Werdegar, plus the collective data for pro tem Justices.

Let’s review Justice Mosk and his successor, Justice Moreno, together.  With only occasional exceptions, Justice Mosk was comparatively seldom in the majority in divided civil cases as the period started – 39.13% in 1990, fifty percent in 1991, in the forties 1992-1994, 1996 and 1998, but then his trend numbers drifted up, reaching the sixties in 1995, 1997 and 1999-2000 and seventy percent during his final year of 2001.  Justice Moreno, on the other hand, was in the majority of divided civil cases 84.21% of the time in 2002, 88.24% in 2003 and 95% in 2004.  Justice Panelli’s numbers were similar – 91.3% in 1990, 90.91% in 1991, 89.66% in 1992, 85.19% in 1993 and 80% in 1994.  Justice Werdegar’s rate was typically quite high during these early years, with relatively frequent dips – between the high seventies and low nineties in 1994-1995, 1997-2000 and 2002-2004, but 69.23% in 1996 and 47.62% in 2002.

That brings us to the pro tems.  On the one hand, since pro tems typically sit for only one case (there are occasional exceptions when a recently retired Supreme Court Justice sits, technically as a pro tem, in multiple cases which were largely worked up in the closing months of his or her tenure), one might speculate that the permanent Justices know them less well, and that might affect the pro tem’s ability to bring the others around to his or her preferred result.  On the other hand, since pro tems tend to dissent less often than the permanent Justices, one might expect their rate to be quite high.  Or, since our pro tem category encompasses a fairly large number of individuals, one might guess that the numbers will be all over the board.

In fact, the result doesn’t entirely match any of these speculations.  With the exception of 1992, pro tems had a quite high majority rate from 1990 to 2000 – 100% in 1993, 1995-1996 and 1999, in the eighties in 1991, 1994 and 1997-1998 and 71.43% in 1990.  But then, it dipped sharply – 33.33% in 2001, only 20% in 2003 and fifty percent in 2004 (there were no pro tems in 2002).

Join us here next time as we turn our attention to the data for the years 2005 to 2018.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Sergei Gussev (no changes).

 

Who Wrote the Longest Majority Opinions in Criminal Cases Each Year Since 1990 (Part 2)?

Last time, we reviewed the distribution of majority opinions in criminal cases among the Justices from 1990 to 2018.  This time, we’re looking at the length of the Justices’ opinions – who wrote the longest and shortest majority opinions?  Of course, the data here is strongly affected the Court’s death penalty opinions, where majority opinions tend to be much longer than in non-death cases.

In 1990, Justice Eagleson averaged 54.88 pages in his final year on the Court, and Justice Kaufman (also in his final year) averaged 54 pages.  Justice Panelli averaged 26.6 pages.  In 1991, Justice Kennard averaged 69.33 pages, while Justice Panelli averaged 25.38 pages.  In 1992, Justice Kennard averaged 59.33 pages.  Chief Justice Lucas wrote the shortest opinions at 31.6 pages.  In 1993, Justice Panelli averaged 38.33 pages, while Justice Arabian averaged 19.75 pages.  In 1994, Justice Baxter led with an average opinion of 60.33 pages.  Justice Panelli averaged 10 pages.  In 1995, Justice Mosk averaged 59.67 pages, while Justice Baxter averaged only 19.5 pages.  In 1996, Justice Mosk averaged 62 page criminal majorities.  Justice Panelli averaged only two pages.

In 1997, Justice Baxter’s majority opinions averaged 99 pages, and Justice Kennard average 72.2.  Justice Mosk averaged 15.5 pages.  In 1998, Justice Baxter averaged 70.14 pages, and Justice Chin averaged 30.2.  In 1999, Chief Justice George averaged 50 pages, while Justice Brown’s majority opinions averaged only 17 pages.  In 2000, Chief Justice George’s opinions averaged 47.67 pages.  Justice Brown averaged 19 pages.  In 2001, Justice Werdegar’s majority opinions averaged 43.6 pages, while Justice Mosk’s averaged sixteen pages.  In 2002, Justice Werdegar averaged 73 pages.  Justice Brown averaged 17.2 pages.  In 2003, Justice Werdegar averaged 56.2 pages.  Justice Baxter’s majority opinions averaged 25 pages.

In 2004, Justice Werdegar averaged 79 pages per majority opinion, while Justice Kennard averaged only 17.21 pages.  In 2005, Chief Justice George’s majority opinions averaged 64.73 pages.  Justice Chin’s opinions averaged 31.1 pages.  In 2006, Justice Baxter’s majority opinions averaged 63.73 pages.  Justice Chin’s opinions averaged 27.56 pages.  In 2007, the Chief Justice’s opinions averaged 51.14 pages and Justice Corrigan’s averaged 22.2 pages.  In 2008, Justice Moreno’s majority opinions averaged 54 pages, while Justice Corrigan’s were 29.3 pages.  In 2009, Chief Justice George’s majority opinions averaged 62.6 pages.  Justice Werdegar’s were 26 pages.  In 2010, Justice Moreno averaged 54.13 pages per majority opinion, while Justice Kennard’s opinions averaged 23.75 pages.

In 2011, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye’s average majority opinion was 70 pages, while Justice Kennard averaged 22.29 pages.  In 2012, the Chief Justice’s average majority opinion was 64.33 pages.  Justice Kennard was once again shortest at 28.64 pages.  In 2013, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye’s average criminal majority opinion was 69.1 pages.  Justice Corrigan’s average was 22.86 pages.  In 2014, the Chief Justice’s average majority opinion was 68.78 pages, while Justice Werdegar’s average was 32 pages.  In 2015, the Chief Justice once again averaged the longest majorities – 43.57 pages.  Justice Cuellar was shortest at twenty pages.  In 2016, Justice Liu narrowly edged out the Chief Justice, averaging 65.14 pages to the Chief Justice’s 62.5 pages.  Justice Corrigan had the lowest average – 29.4 pages.  In 2017, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye averaged 66.5 pages per majority opinion, while Justice Cuellar was again shortest at twenty pages.  Last year, Justice Kruger averaged the longest criminal majority opinions – 52.2 pages.  Justice Corrigan wrote the shortest opinions at 28 pages.

Join us back here next time as we turn our attention to a new area of inquiry.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Becky Matsubara (no changes).

Who Wrote the Longest Majority Opinions in Criminal Cases Each Year Since 1990 (Part 1)?

For the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at the distribution among the Justices of the Court’s majority opinions in civil cases and identifying which Justice each year wrote the longest and shortest opinions.  Today, we’re looking at the data for the criminal docket.

In Table 753, we review the distribution of majority opinions between 1990 and 1996.  At the beginning of our period, the Court issued an enormous number of its criminal majorities as per curiam opinions.  In 1990, forty-three criminal decisions were signed by the Court as a whole.  Departing Justice Kaufman wrote one criminal majority, and Justices Arabian, Broussard and Kennard wrote two.  In 1991, there were twenty-one per curiam majorities.  Chief Justice Lucas wrote twelve, and Justices Baxter, Broussard and Kennard wrote three each.  In 1992, the Court apparently ended its practice of issuing a large number of criminal majority opinions as per curiam.  The busiest authors were Chief Justice Lucas and Justice Arabian with ten each.  Justice Kennard wrote only three.  In 1993, Justice George wrote eleven majority opinions, while Justice Panelli wrote three.  In 1994, Chief Justice Lucas and Justice George (his future successor) wrote ten criminal majorities each.  Justice Panelli (in his last year) and Justice Werdegar (in her first) wrote one each.  In 1995, Justice Werdegar wrote nine majority opinions in criminal cases.  Justices George and Kennard wrote four each.  In 1996, Justice Baxter led with seven majority opinions.  New Justice Janice Rogers Brown wrote two.

In 1997, Justice Brown wrote eleven majority opinions in criminal cases, while Justice Baxter wrote only one.  In 1998, Chief Justice George wrote ten majorities.  Justice Kennard wrote three.  In 1999, Justice Chin led, writing ten majority opinions.  Justice Mosk wrote four.  In 2000, Justice Chin once again led with eleven majority opinions.  Chief Justice George wrote six.  In 2001, the Chief Justice and Justice Kennard wrote twelve opinions apiece, and Justice Chin wrote ten.  Retiring Chief Justice Mosk wrote three.  In 2002, four Justices – Chin (16), Baxter (13), George (13) and Brown (10) hit double digits.  New Justice Moreno wrote two criminal majorities.  In 2003, Justice Brown wrote thirteen majorities and Justice Chin wrote a dozen.  Justice Werdegar wrote five.

In Table 755, we total up the years 1990 through 2003.  Chief Justice George led, writing for the Court 101 times.  Justice Baxter was next, writing 91 majority opinions.  Justices Chin and Kennard were next at 76 and 70 majority opinions.  Justice Mosk wrote 64 majorities, Chief Justice Lucas wrote 63 and Justice Brown wrote 62.

In 2004, Justices Chin and Kennard led with thirteen majority opinions each, while Justice Werdegar wrote five.  In 2005, Chief Justice George and Justice Brown wrote eleven majorities and Justice Moreno wrote five.  In 2006, Justice Baxter wrote ten majority opinions, while Justice Werdegar wrote five.  In 2007, Justice Chin led, writing thirteen majority opinions, and Justice Kennard wrote five.  In 2008, Chief Justice George wrote thirteen majority opinion.  Justice Moreno wrote five.  In 2009, Justice Corrigan wrote twelve majority opinions.  Justice Kennard wrote only five.  In 2010, Justices Baxter and Corrigan wrote eleven majority opinions each.  The Chief Justice wrote one.

In 2011, Justices Chin and Corrigan wrote a dozen criminal majority opinions.  Justice Moreno wrote three.  In 2012, majority opinions were evenly distributed – Justice Baxter wrote fourteen, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Chin and Corrigan wrote twelve each, and Justice Kennard wrote eleven.  Justice Moreno wrote six.  In 2013, Justice Chin and the Chief Justice wrote twelve and ten majority opinions, respectively.  Justice Kennard wrote two.  In 2014, Justice Kennard wrote ten majority opinions.  Justice Werdegar wrote one.  In 2015, Justice Werdegar led with nine majority opinions, and Justice Chin was right behind at eight.  Justice Baxter wrote three majority opinions, and his successor Justice Cuellar wrote two.  In 2016, Justice Chin wrote eleven majority opinions.  Justices Corrigan and Kruger wrote five.  In 2017, Justices Kruger and Corrigan led with seven majority opinions apiece.  The Chief Justice wrote four.  Last year, Justice Cuellar wrote eleven majority opinions, and Justices Kruger and Liu wrote ten each.  The Chief Justice wrote four.

In our final table, we report the overall numbers for each Justice from 2004 to 2018.  Justice Chin led by a wide margin, writing 147 majority opinions.  Justice Corrigan wrote 115, Justice Baxter 101, and Justice Werdegar 97.  The lowest numbers, as with the first half of our period, were Justices who either left the Court at the outset of the period or joined towards the end: Justice Cuellar wrote twenty-seven majority opinions, Justice Kruger has written twenty-two, and Justice Brown wrote twenty-one.

Join us next time for a review of the average lengths of the Justices’ opinions.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Pacific Southwest Region USFWS  (no changes).

Who Wrote the Longest Majority Opinions in Civil Cases Since 1990 (Part 2)?

Last time, we began our examination of the individual Justices’ writing habits with a review of how the majority opinions in civil cases were distributed from 1990 to 2018.  Today, we’re looking at the average length of those opinions, Justice by Justice.

The real lesson we see in Table 749 is that although there are highs and lows each year, “highest/lowest” is something of a misnomer when applied to these years – most of the Justices were clustered close together in most years.  In 1990, Chief Justice Lucas led at 22.75 and Justice Mosk averaged twelve pages, but five Justices – Arabian, Eagleson, Lucas, Kaufman and Kennard – were between 18.5 and 22.75 pages.  In 1991, Justice Baxter led at 21.6 pages and Justice Broussard, in his final year on the Court, was at seven pages.  Chief Justice Lucas and Justices Arabian, Eagleson, Kennard and Panelli were all between 16.63 and 19.7 pages.  In 1992, Justice Puglia’s one opinion was twenty-six pages.  Justice Kennard led the permanent Justices at 23 pages.  Justice George was 15.75 pages.  Justices Arabian, Baxter, Mosk and Panelli were all between 16.25 and 19.43 pages.  In 1993, all the Justices were closely clustered – Justices Baxter averaged 19.14 pages and Chief Justice Lucas was at 13.4, but Justices Panelli, Arabian, George and Mosk were between 16.67 and 18.33 pages.  In 1994, Justice Mosk averaged 32.63 pages and Justice Panelli averaged 13.  Four Justices – Baxter (25.1), George (23.8), Werdegar (22.5) and Chief Justice Lucas (22.4) were all in the low-to-mid 20s.  In 1995, Chief Justice Lucas averaged 30.43 pages.  Justice Werdegar was shortest at 15 pages.  Justices Baxter (26.5), George (22.57) and Mosk (22.25) were all in the twenties, and Justice Arabian was right behind (18.75).  In 1996, two Justices averaged more than thirty pages per case – Werdegar (34.5) and Arabian (30.75).  Three more Justices averaged in the high 20s, and two in the mid-20s.  The numbers were bunched in 1997 too.  Chief Justice George averaged 36.71 pages, but five Justices were in the mid-twenties – Mosk (26.92), Brown (26.5), Chin (26.4), Werdegar (26.38) and Baxter (25.29), and the one remaining Justice (Kennard) averaged 23.75 pages.

In 1998, Justice Baxter averaged 39.25 pages and Chief Justice George, 31.67 pages.  The remaining five Justices averaged in the 20s – Kennard (28), Mosk (24.64), Chin (23), Werdegar (22) and Brown (21.1).  In 1999, Chief Justice George (36.22) and Justice Baxter (30.67) both averaged over thirty pages per opinion.   Two Justices averaged in the twenties – Werdegar (28.43) and Mosk (23.6), and three more averaged in the teens – Chin (19), Brown (15.38) and Kennard (15.2).  In 2000, Justice Mosk led, averaging 30.33 pages.  Four Justices were in the twenties – Baxter (29.5), Chief Justice George (28.14), Brown (21.63) and Chin (20.2).  Justice Werdegar and Kennard wrote the shortest decisions: 17.89 and 15.33 pages.  In 2001, Justice Mosk once again led the Court, averaging 31.86 pages, while four Justices – Chief Justice George (29.25) and Justices Werdegar (25.29), Baxter (24.57) and Brown (24.08) were in the twenties.  Justices Chin (17.71) and Kennard (12) were shortest.  In 2002, Chief Justice led, averaging 29 pages per opinions.  Justice Baxter averaged 26 pages.  Justices Chin and Werdegar averaged 22.67 and 21.67 pages, respectively.  In 2003, Chief Justice George wrote the longest opinions at 38 pages.  Justices Moreno (22.67), Baxter (24.5), Brown (24.5) and Werdegar (22.67) all were in the twenties.  Justices Kennard (17.88) and Chin (16.83) wrote the shortest opinions.  In 2004, opinions got somewhat shorter.  The Chief Justice once again wrote the longest – 43.6 pages.  Justices Moreno (24.09), Werdegar (22.21) and Kennard (21.25) were in the twenties, and Justices Chin (16.8), Baxter (16.6) and Brown (14.33) wrote the shortest opinions.

In 2005, Chief Justice George wrote the longest criminal majorities (a trend that would continue until his retirement) – 32.38 pages.  The remaining six Justices were all clustered in the twenties – Brown (23.75), Moreno (22.83), Baxter (22.63), Werdegar (22.17), Chin (21.5) and Kennard (20.14).  The numbers spread out a bit in 2006 – the Chief Justice once again led at 43 pages, Justices Moreno (29.44), Baxter (24.25), Chin (23.75) and Werdegar (22.33) were all in the twenties, and Justices Kennard and Corrigan were at 16.25 and 16.17, respectively.  In 2007, the Chief Justice averaged 37.75 pages for civil majorities.  Justices Baxter (26), Moreno (25.91), Werdegar (22.6) and Kennard (20.5) were all in the twenties.  Justice Chin averaged 18.8 pages, and Justice Corrigan 14.33.  In 2008, Chief Justice George averaged 67.5 pages, and the other six Justices were all in the twenties again.  In 2009, Chief Justice George averaged 62.25 pages.  Justices Baxter, Chin and Werdegar were all between twenty and twenty-two, and Justices Moreno (19.89), Kennard (18.11) and Corrigan (12) were in the teens.  In 2010, the Chief Justice averaged 39.67 pages.  Justice Werdegar averaged 30.17 pages.  Justices Corrigan (27), Baxter (26.5) and Chin (24.13) were in the twenties, and Justices Moreno and Kennard wrote the shortest opinions.  In 2011, new Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye averaged 61 pages.  Justices Werdegar (28.78), Moreno (26), Baxter (25.14) and Corrigan (21.8) were all in the twenties, and Justices Kennard and Chin wrote the shortest opinions.

Finally, let’s look at the most recent seven year period.  In 2012, the Chief Justice’s average civil majority was 43.5 pages.  Four Justices – Werdegar (29.2), Corrigan (26), Liu (24.5) and Baxter (23) were in the twenties.  Justice Kennard was just below, averaging 19.75.  In 2013, Justice Liu averaged the longest majorities at 35.13.  The Chief Justice was at 34.5.  Justices Werdegar (26), Baxter (23.5) and Kennard (21.5) were in the twenties, and Justices Chin and Corrigan wrote the shortest opinions that year.  In 2014, the Chief Justice’s civil majorities averaged 51 pages.  Justice Baxter averaged 33.33 pages, and the remaining Justices were all in the twenties.  In 2015, three Justices – the Chief (35.14), Werdegar (31.57) and Chin (31.25) were all in the thirties.  Justice Liu (24.25) and Cuellar (23) were in the twenties, and Justices Corrigan and Kruger wrote the shortest majorities.  In 2016, the Chief Justice averaged 38.75 pages, Justice Liu was at 31.5 and Justice Werdegar averaged 30.2.  Justice Corrigan (25) and Cuellar (20.67) were in the twenties and Justices Kruger and Chin were in the teens.  In 2017, the Chief Justice averaged 36 pages.  Justice Cuellar was next, averaging 28 pages.  Justices Liu (24.29), Werdegar (23) and Corrigan (22.33) were in the twenties, and Justices Chin and Kruger wrote the shortest opinions.  Finally, last year, the Chief Justice averaged 43.13 pages.  Three Justices – Kruger (29.33), Cuellar (25.4) and Corrigan (22.33) were in the twenties.   Justices Chin (19.29) and Liu (17) wrote the shortest civil majorities.

So what’s the bottom line here?  For the most part, the recent members of the Court have had relatively similar styles.  Majority opinions in civil cases have tended for the most part to be consistently between twenty and thirty pages.  Both Chief Justices George and Cantil-Sakauye tended in most years to write among the longest civil majorities, perhaps because Chief Justices tend to write for the Court in the most complicated and/or high profile cases.  Among the current members of the Court, Justices Chin, Corrigan and Kruger (depending on whether 2018 turns out to be an outlier) generally write slightly shorter civil opinions.

Join us back here next time as we turn our attention to the criminal docket. 

Image courtesy of Flickr by Sonofabike (no changes).

Who Wrote the Longest Majority Opinions in Civil Cases Each Year Since 1990?

For the past few weeks, we’ve been studying the average length of the Court’s opinions, looking for insights about the Court’s decision-making.  This week, we’re starting a related topic: which individual Justice tends to write the longest and shortest majority opinions in civil cases?  Today, step one – we trace how many majority opinions each Justice wrote each year (since average lengths tend to have large random variations when they’re drawn from only a few opinions).  Tomorrow, we’ll review the data for average length (and next week – the criminal docket).

In Table 743, we address the years 1990 through 1997.  In 1990, the most prolific writer was Justice Panelli, with eleven majority opinions.  The least was Justice Kaufman with two.  In 1991, Chief Justice Lucas wrote ten opinions, Justice Eagleson, in his final year on the Court, wrote two.  In 1992, Justices Panelli and Baxter wrote twelve opinions each and the Chief Justice filed eleven.  Justices Kennard and Pro Tem Justice Puglia wrote one (if you’re wondering about Justice Puglia’s case, it was Carma Developers v. Marathon Development, No. S011486 – all seven members of the Supreme Court recused themselves, so the Third District Court of Appeal was ordered to review the Petition for Review and subsequent merits briefing and argument as a pro tem Supreme Court).

In 1993, Justice Panelli once again led with thirteen civil opinions, while Justice George wrote one.  In 1994, Justice Arabian wrote eleven and Chief Justice Lucas and Justice Baxter wrote ten.  Justice Panelli, in his final year on the Court, wrote one.  In 1995, Justice Mosk wrote eleven majorities and Justice Werdegar wrote five.  In 1996, Justice Mosk again led with eight civil majorities, and Chief Justice Lucas, in his final year on the Court, wrote one.  In 1997, Justice Mosk wrote twelve, and new Justice Brown wrote two.

In 1998, Justice Mosk led with eleven majority opinions and Justice Brown was right behind at ten.  Chief Justice George wrote three, and the Court issued two per curiam decisions in civil cases.  In 1999, Justice Mosk write ten majorities and Justice Kennard wrote five (there was one per curiam).  In 2000, Justices Mosk and Werdegar wrote nine majorities apiece, while Justice Kennard wrote three.  In 2001, Justice Brown led with twelve majorities.  Chief Justice George and Justice Kennard wrote four.  In 2002, Justice Brown wrote thirteen majority opinions, and Justice Chin wrote three.  In 2003, Justices Kennard and Werdegar shared the lead with nine opinions, while Justice Baxter wrote four.  In 2004, Justice Werdegar wrote fourteen civil majority opinions.  Justice Kennard wrote four.

In 2005, Justice Moreno wrote twelve majority opinions in civil cases.  Justice Brown wrote four before her departure from the Court.  In 2006, Justice Werdegar led with twelve majorities, and Justice Kennard wrote four.  In 2007, Justice Moreno wrote eleven and Justice Werdegar wrote ten.  Justice Baxter wrote four.  In 2008, Justice Moreno wrote eight, and Chief Justice George wrote two.  In 2009, Justices Kennard and Moreno wrote nine majorities.  Justice Corrigan wrote two.  In 2010, Justice Moreno wrote nine majority opinions and Justice Corrigan wrote only one on the civil side.  In 2011, Justice Werdegar led with nine civil majority opinions, and Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye wrote one.

In 2012, Justice Liu wrote the most civil majority opinions with six.  Justices Baxter and Corrigan wrote two.  In 2013, Justice Liu was once again the most active writer with eight civil majorities, and Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Justice Kennard wrote two each.  In 2014, Justice Corrigan wrote six, while Justice Chin wrote one.  In 2015, the Chief Justice and Justice Werdegar wrote seven civil majorities each, while Justice Kruger wrote one.  In 2016, Justices Corrigan and Kruger wrote seven majority opinions each, and Justices Chin and Cuellar wrote three apiece.  In 2017, Justice Corrigan wrote nine majority opinions, and Justice Werdegar wrote four.  Last year, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye led with eight majority opinions, while Justice Kruger wrote three.

In Table 747, we report the overall totals for the first half of our database period – the years 1990 to 2004.  For that period, Justices Mosk and Baxter were in a photo-finish for the top spot with ninety-three and ninety-two civil majority opinions, respectively.  Justice Werdegar wrote eighty-three, followed by Chief Justice George and Justice Brown with sixty-eight each and Justice Kennard at sixty-five.

Finally, we report the totals for the period 2005 through 2018.  Justice Werdegar led for these years, writing eighty-six majority opinions.  Justice Chin was next at seventy-five.  Justice Corrigan has written sixty-eight.  Justice Moreno (59), Justice Baxter (53) and Justice Kennard (53) were next.

Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the data on the average length of each Justice’s civil majority opinions.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Owen Jones (no changes).

 

 

Does It Take More Pages to Reverse Than to Affirm in Criminal Cases (2004-2018)?

We’ve established already that majority opinions in cases reversing the Court of Appeal are, on average, generally longer than majority opinions affirming.  Last time, we showed that for criminal cases between 1990 and 2003, the result was flipped – affirmances were nearly always longer.  Today, we’re reviewing the data for the years 2004 to 2018.

In Table 741, we report the data for the years 2004 to 2010.  As you can see, affirmances were longer than reversals in every year – in most cases, substantially longer.  In 2004, affirmances averaged 39 pages, while reversals were only 25 pages.  In 2005, affirmances averaged 55.5 pages and reversals were 27.04.  In 2006, affirmances were 60.73 pages, but reversals were 28.93 pages.  In 2007, affirmances averaged 42.56 pages, but reversals were only 28.23.  In 2008, affirmances averaged 46.5 pages, while reversals were 36.04 pages.  In 2009, affirmances averaged 50.27 pages, while reversals were only 23.88 pages.  In 2010, affirmances averaged 54.41 pages, and reversals were 24.16.

Between 2011 and 2018, affirming majority opinions in criminal cases were longer than reversals every year.  In 2011, affirmances averaged 53.79 pages to 24.44 pages for reversals.  In 2012, affirmances were 49.65 pages to 29.19 for reversals.  In 2013, affirmances were 64.27 pages, while reversals were only 27.96 pages.  In 2014, affirmances averaged 50.3 pages, while reversals were 44.96 pages.  In 2015, affirmances averaged 39.68 pages.  Reversals averaged 37.13 pages.  In 2016, affirmances averaged 52.39 pages, and reversals averaged 41.48 pages.  In 2017, affirmances averaged 39.73 pages.  Reversals were 20.42 pages.  In 2018, affirmances averaged 43.38 pages, while reversals were, on average, 37.61 pages.

Join us back here next Thursday as we turn our attention to a new topic.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Darron Birgenheier (no changes).

Does It Take More Pages to Reverse Than to Affirm in Criminal Cases (1990-2003)?

Last time, we asked whether majority opinions in civil cases, on average, tend to be longer when the Court reverses than when it affirms.  The answer was, in the vast majority of cases, yes.  Today and tomorrow, we’re asking the same question in criminal cases.  Surprisingly, the answer for criminal cases is the reverse – affirmances tend to be longer – usually by a wide margin.

Between 1990 and 1996, reversals were longer in only one of seven years.  In 1990, affirmances averaged 27.65 pages and reversals averaged 24.06 pages.  In 1991, affirmances were 31.95 pages.  Reversals averaged 30.52.  In 1992, there was almost no difference – reversals were 40.69 pages and affirmances were 40.66 pages.  In 1993, affirmances averaged 42.52 pages and reversals were only 18.28 pages.  In 1994, affirmances averaged 33.48 pages and reversals 20.75.  In 1995, affirmances averaged 46.5 pages and reversals were 22.7.  In 1996, affirmances averaged 43.36 pages.  Reversals averaged only 32 pages.

Between 1997 and 2003, affirmances were always much longer than majority opinions reversing.  IN 1997, affirmances averaged 58.67 pages and reversals only 20.96 pages.  In 1998, affirmances were 49.32 pages and reversals were 29.59.  In 1999, affirmances averaged 44.3 pages to 19.16 for reversals.  In 2000, affirmances averaged 43.29 pages and reversals averaged 19.24 pages.  IN 2001, affirmances were 38.46 pages to 17.72 for reversals.  In 2002, affirmances were 40.8 pages and reversals were 26.38 pages.  In 2003, affirmances averaged 39.76 pages.  Reversals were 24.96 pages.

Join us back here tomorrow as we review the data for the years 2004 to 2018.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Becky Matsubara (no changes).

Does It Take More Pages to Reverse Than to Affirm in Civil Cases (2004-2018)?

Last time, we compared the length of majority opinions at the Court in civil cases for reversals and affirmances between 1990 and 2003.  In this post, we’re looking at the years 2004 through 2018.

Between 2004 and 2010, in five of seven years reversals averaged longer majority opinions than affirmances.  In 2004, reversals averaged 24.39 pages to 20.25 for affirmances.  In 2005, reversals averaged 24.62 pages and affirmances averaged 22.38 pages.  In 2006, reversals averaged 28 pages; affirmances averaged 22.67 pages.  The following year, reversals averaged 24.79 pages, while affirmances ran 21.6 pages.  In 2008, reversals averaged 28.54 pages.  Affirmances were 22.67 pages.  In 2009, affirmances averaged 25.83 pages, while reversals averaged 22.52.  In 2010, affirmances averaged 30 pages, while reversals were 23.87 pages.

We report the most recent data in Table 738.  In five of eight years, civil reversals were longer on average than affirmances.  In 2011, affirmances averaged 23.5 pages to 22.56 for reversals.  IN 2012, reversals were 27.32 pages, while affirmances averaged 22.33 pages.  In 2013, affirmances averaged 27.57 pages.  Reversals averaged 25.67 pages.  In 2014, affirmances averaged 31.7 pages.  Reversals averaged 23.91.  In 2015, majorities reversing averaged 27.78 pages, while affirmances were 27.44.  In 2016, reversals averaged 26.95 pages, while affirmances were 23.64 pages.  In 2017, reversals averaged 24.61 pages, and affirmances were 23.29.  In 2018, reversals averaged 29.87 pages, while affirmances were 25.71.

Join us back here next week as we turn our attention to the Court’s criminal docket.

Image courtesy of Flickr by LocoSteve (no changes).

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