Yesterday, we looked at the distribution and average length of the Court’s majority opinions in criminal cases not involving the death penalty between 2008 and 2015. Today, we address the distribution of the Court’s most recent death penalty appeals.
Between 2008 and 2015, Justice Chin wrote the most majority opinions in death penalty cases with 31. Justice Corrigan wrote 30, Justice Werdegar wrote 24 and Justice Baxter 23.
For the year 2008, Justice Baxter led with five majority opinions. Chief Justice George and Justices Kennard and Chin wrote four apiece, and Justices Corrigan, Werdegar and Moreno wrote three each. For 2009, Justice Moreno led with six majorities. Chief Justice George and Justice Baxter wrote five, Justice Corrigan four, and Justice Chin wrote two. For 2010, Chief Justice George and Justice Corrigan led with five majority opinions each. Justices Werdegar and Moreno wrote four apiece, and Justices Kennard, Chin and Baxter wrote two each. For 2011, Justice Corrigan led with seven majorities. Justice Chin was next with six, Justice Werdegar had four, and Justices Baxter and Moreno wrote three each. For 2012, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye led with seven majority opinions in death penalty appeals. Justice Chin wrote five and Justices Kennard and Werdegar wrote four each. For 2013, the Chief Justice once again led with five majority opinions. Justices Chin and Baxter wrote four each, and Justice Liu wrote two. For 2014, Justice Corrigan led with five majority opinions. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Justice Chin wrote four apiece, and Justices Werdegar and Baxter wrote three each. For 2015, Justices Werdegar and Chin led the Court with four majorities each. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Justice Corrigan each wrote three, and Justice Liu wrote two.
The average length of the Justices’ majority opinions each year is reported below in Table 154. The data shows no consistent pattern of Justices writing the longest death penalty opinions on the Court, but one of only three Justices had the shortest average each year in the period: Justices Chin, Corrigan and Kennard. But because the numbers at times show substantial shifts – the result of the small year-by-year data set – these same three Justices were at other times among the highest on the Court in terms of length.
For 2008, Chief Justice George averaged 101.75 pages per death penalty majority opinion. Justice Kennard was next at 85.5 pages. Justice Moreno averaged 77.33 pages. The shortest averages were Justice Corrigan at 60.67 and Justice Chin at 55.75. For 2009, Justice Kennard led, averaging 110 pages. Chief Justice George averaged 91.6 pages and Justice Baxter averaged 71.4 pages. Justice Chin averaged 54.5 pages and Justice Corrigan 45.25. For 2010, Justice Chin led, averaging 117.5 pages. Chief Justice George averaged 97.8 pages and Justice Baxter averaged 97 pages. Justices Corrigan and Kennard had the smallest averages at 71.2 and 61.5. For 2011, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye led with an average majority opinion of 139.5 pages (the result of a single 198 page opinion). Justice Baxter was next at 80.67 pages. That year, three Justices were under sixty pages – Justices Moreno (59.67), Kennard (56) and Chin (52.83). For 2012, Justice Baxter led, writing a 161 page majority opinion. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Werdegar and Chin were next at 88.29, 76.5 and 72.6, respectively. Justice Kennard had the shortest average at 48 pages.
In 2013, Justices Liu and Werdegar were both over 100 pages – 111 and 106, to be exact. The Chief Justice and Justice Baxter were close behind at 94.8 and 93. Justice Corrigan, on the other hand, averaged only 45 pages. For 2014, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Justice Liu were both in three digits, averaging 128 pages and 105.5. Justice Baxter averaged 90.67. The shortest death penalty majorities were by Justice Werdegar (56 pages) and Justice Kennard (50.5). Last year, majority opinions in death penalty appeals were a bit shorter than recent trends. Only two Justices averaged more than seventy pages – Justice Liu at 79.5 and Justice Werdegar at 71.5. The shortest opinions on the Court were by Justice Corrigan (53.33 pages) and Justice Chin (52.5 pages).
Join us back here next week as we turn our attention to a new aspect of the Court’s decision making.