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