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.

Click here to view table. 

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