Last week, we completed our examination of reversal rates and average votes to affirm, District by District of the Court of Appeal. This week, we turn our attention to another issue: the length of the Court’s opinions. For context, the average majority opinion from the Illinois Supreme Court, the other court we closely follow, averages between twelve and eighteen pages in most years.
We report the average length of majority opinions in civil cases, year by year, in Table 112 below, divided between non-unanimous and unanimous decisions. Not surprisingly, opinions in divided cases were inevitably at least a few pages longer. In 2000, the average majority opinion in non-unanimous civil cases was 27.21 pages, to 22.96 for unanimous decisions. The following year, non-unanimous majorities were down slightly to 26.25 pages, but unanimous decisions were up a bit to 23.69 pages. For 2002, majority opinions in non-unanimous cases averaged 23.17 pages. Majorities in unanimous decisions reached their lowest average of these years at only 19.89 pages. For 2003, majorities in non-unanimous civil decisions averaged 26 pages, while unanimous majorities averaged 22.54 pages. The next year, non-unanimous majorities averaged 26.61 pages, to 20.59 pages for unanimous decisions.
From 2005 to 2007, majority opinions in non-unanimous civil cases rose to their highest levels of the period, averaging 30.6 pages in 2005, 30.15 pages in 2006 and 28.29 pages in 2007. But majority opinions in unanimous cases didn’t follow suit. In 2005, the average unanimous majority was 22.95 pages. In 2006, the average was 25.87 pages, but in 2007, it was down to 22.03 pages.
Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the Court’s majority opinions in criminal cases during the same years.