Today, we begin a new phase of our analysis of the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent history, as we turn our attention to the work of the individual Justices. Over the next two months, we’ll be assessing how influential individual Justices appear to be in swaying the Court to their point of view. First up: have any of the Justices tended to write more of the Court’s majority opinions than others? Nearly all appellate courts try to equalize the workload among the Justices, so the “default” value would be that each sitting Justice writes one-seventh of the total majority opinions. But of course, one has to actually be in the majority to be assigned the majority opinion.

Today, we’ll address the civil docket between 2000 and 2004. Tomorrow, we’ll turn to the criminal docket for the same years, and over the next two weeks, we’ll address the years 2005-2009 and 2010-2015.

In Table 356 below, we report the total number of majority opinions written by each Justice in civil cases decided with dissent between 2000 and 2004. One might expect a Justice very much in the mainstream of the Court’s thought to frequently vote with the majority in non-unanimous decisions, and therefore frequently find himself or herself writing the majority opinion.

In 2000, the bulk of majorities in non-unanimous civil cases were spread among four Justices – Justices Rathje and Bilandic with four each, and Justices McMorrow and Miller with three each. Chief Justice Harrison and Justice Heiple wrote one each. The following year, non-unanimous majorities were more spread out. Chief Justice Harrison and Justice Thomas wrote three each, Justice Garman and Justice Freeman wrote two apiece, and Justices McMorrow, Miller and Fitzgerald wrote one each. In 2002, Justice Fitzgerald led the Court, writing four non-unanimous civil majorities. Chief Justice McMorrow and Justices Garman and Freeman wrote three each. Chief Justice Harrison wrote two, and Justices Kilbride and Thomas wrote one apiece. The next year, Justice Rarick led the Court, writing four non-unanimous majorities in civil cases. Justices Freeman and Kilbride wrote three each. Justice Garman wrote two, and Chief Justice McMorrow and Justice Freeman wrote one apiece. The distribution shifted yet again in 2004. That year, Justice Freeman wrote five majority opinions in non-unanimous civil cases. Chief Justice McMorrow wrote three, and Justices Garman and Kilbride wrote two each. Justices Rarick and Fitzgerald wrote one majority opinion apiece.

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In Table 357 below, we report the same data, with each Justices’ year computed as a fraction of all the Court’s non-unanimous civil decisions. In 2000, Justices Bilandic and Rathje wrote half of the Court’s total non-unanimous civil majorities between them. Justices McMorrow and Miller wrote 18.75% each. In 2001, Chief Justice Harrison and Justice Thomas each wrote 23.08% of the cases. Justices Garman and Freeman wrote 15.38% each. For 2002, Justice Fitzgerald was responsible for 23.53% of the non-unanimous civil majorities, and Chief Justice McMorrow and Justices Garman and Freeman wrote 17.65% apiece. Chief Justice Harrison wrote 11.76%. In 2003, Justice Rarick wrote 28.57% of the Court’s non-unanimous majorities, and Justices Kilbride and Freeman wrote 21.43% apiece. Justice Garman wrote 14.29% of the majorities. In 2004, Justice Freeman wrote 35.71% of the non-unanimous civil decisions. Chief Justice McMorrow wrote 21.43%. Justices Garman and Kilbride wrote 14.29% of the cases.

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In Table 358, we report the total majority opinions written by each Justice in civil cases decided unanimously between 2000 and 2004. Note that the distribution appears to be somewhat more uneven than the distribution of non-unanimous decisions. Chief Justice Harrison wrote the most unanimous civil majorities in 2000 with six, followed by Justice Miller with 4 and Justices Freeman and Bilandic with three each. Justice McMorrow wrote two majority opinions and Justice Rathje one. Justice McMorrow led the Court in 2001, writing ten unanimous civil majorities. Justice Freeman wrote eight, Justices Thomas and Fitzgerald wrote five apiece, Chief Justice Harrison and Justice Garman wrote three each. Justice Miller and Kilbride wrote two unanimous civil majorities apiece.

In 2002, Justice Kilbride wrote nine unanimous civil majorities. Justices Freeman and Fitzgerald wrote five apiece. Chief Justice McMorrow, Justice Garman and Justice Thomas wrote four each. Chief Justice Harrison wrote two. The next year, Justice Thomas led the Court with seven unanimous civil majorities. Chief Justice McMorrow wrote six. Justice Freeman and Kilbride wrote five majorities apiece, and Justices Garman, Rarick and Fitzgerald wrote three apiece. In 2004, Justices Fitzgerald and Rarick led the Court with eight unanimous civil majorities each. Justices Kilbride and Garman wrote six apiece. Justice Thomas wrote five and Justice Freeman wrote three.

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We report the data on unanimous civil decisions as a percentage of the Court’s total docket in Table 359 below. In 2000, Chief Justice Harrison wrote 27.27% of the unanimous civil decisions. Justice Miller wrote 18.18% of the cases, and Justices Freeman, Heiple and Bilandic wrote 13.64% each. The next year, Justice McMorrow wrote 26.32% of the unanimous civil decisions. Justice Freeman wrote 21.06%, and Justices Thomas and Fitzgerald wrote 13.16% apiece.

In 2002, Justice Kilbride wrote 27.27% of the unanimous civil majorities. Justices Fitzgerald and Freeman wrote 15.15%, and Chief Justice McMorrow and Justices Garman and Thomas wrote 12.12% of the cases each. The next year, the caseload was somewhat more evenly distributed, as Justice Thomas wrote 21.88% of the cases, Chief Justice McMorrow 18.75% and Justices Freeman and Kilbride 15.63% apiece. Finally, in 2004, Justices Rarick and Fitzgerald were responsible for 21.05% of the unanimous civil majorities apiece. Justices Garman and Kilbride wrote 15.79% each, and Justice Thomas added another 13.16%.

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Join us back here tomorrow as we turn our attention to the majority opinions in criminal cases between 2000 and 2004.