Yesterday, we analyzed the Justices’ history with majority opinions in civil cases between 2000 and 2007. Today, we turn our attention to the Court’s history with majority opinions in automatic death penalty appeals. We separate out death penalty appeals from criminal cases in general because majority opinions in death penalty cases are nearly always considerably longer than majority opinions in non-death criminal cases.

We report the number of majority opinions written by each Justice in death penalty cases in Table 144 below. Justice Kennard led the Court during these years, writing 27 majority opinions in death cases. Justice Chin was next with 23 majority opinions, followed by Justice Werdegar with 20. Chief Justice George wrote 19 majority opinions, Justice Baxter wrote 17, Justice Brown 16, Justice Moreno 14, and Justices Corrigan and Mosk four each.

Justice Mosk led the Court in 2000, writing four majority opinions in death cases. Justice Chin wrote three, and Justices Kennard, Werdegar and Baxter wrote two each. For 2001, Justice Kennard led, writing four majority opinions. The only other Justices writing more than one were the Chief Justice and Justice Chin, who wrote two apiece. For 2002, Justice Kennard once again led with four majorities. Justice Werdegar wrote three, and Chief Justice George and Justices Chin and Baxter wrote two each. For 2003, Justice Brown led with five majority opinions in death penalty appeals. Justice Kennard wrote four, and Justices Werdegar and Chin wrote three apiece. For 2004, Justices Brown, Werdegar and Chin led, each writing four majority opinions in death cases. Justice Moreno wrote three, and Chief Justice George and Justices Kennard and Baxter wrote two each. For 2005, the Chief Justice led, writing seven majority opinions in death cases. Justices Brown and Kennard wrote five, Justice Moreno three and Justices Werdegar and Chin two apiece. The following year, Justices Baxter and Moreno led, writing five majority opinions each. Justice Kennard wrote three and Chief Justice George and Justice Chin wrote two apiece. Finally, in 2007, Justice Chin led with five majority opinions in death cases. Justice Werdegar wrote four, Justices Corrigan, Kennard and Baxter wrote three apiece, and Chief Justice George and Justice Moreno wrote two each.

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Before we turn to the data on mean length of these opinions, in Table 145 we report a subset of that data. Between 2000 and 2007, the Supreme Court filed twenty-eight majority opinions in death penalty cases which were 100 pages or more in length. Chief Justice George wrote the most with nine. He was followed by Justice Baxter, who wrote seven, Justice Werdegar with four, and Justices Kennard and Chin with three apiece. Other than the Chief Justice and Justice Baxter, none of the Justices filed more than one 100+ page majority opinion in a single year.

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Chief Justice George and Justice Werdegar tended to write the longest majority opinions in death penalty appeals during these years. For 2000, Chief Justice George’s average majority opinion in death penalty cases was 177 pages. Justice Baxter averaged 107 pages. Justice Werdegar averaged 82.5 pages, and Justice Brown averaged 76 pages. The shortest average for 2000 was Justice Chin at 49.67 pages. For 2001, Justice Werdegar’s average majority opinion was 143 pages. Chief Justice George averaged 119 pages. Justices Brown, Kennard and Baxter were next at 68, 66.75 and 66 pages, respectively. For 2002, Justice Baxter led the Court, averaging 94.5 pages in death penalty appeals. Chief Justice George averaged 80.5 pages and Justice Werdegar averaged 78.33 pages. For 2003, Justice Werdegar led at 83.67 pages. Justices Chin, Moreno, Baxter and Kennard were tightly bunched behind, averaging 68.67, 66, 64 and 59.75 pages. For 2004, Chief Justice George and Justice Werdegar led at 97 pages and 90.25 pages. Justice Kennard and Justice Brown wrote the shortest opinions that year, averaging 42 pages and 38.25 pages. For 2005, Justice Werdegar led, averaging 103 pages. The Chief Justice was next at 85.14 pages. Justices Moreno and Baxter were at 74.33 and 73 pages. Justices Chin and Brown averaged the shortest opinions that year at 65 pages and 58.2 pages.

For 2006, Chief Justice George and Justice Baxter both averaged more than 100 pages per majority opinion – the Chief Justice’s average majority opinion in death penalty cases that year was 122.5 pages, and Justice Baxter’s was 112.2. Justices Corrigan and Chin averaged 81 and 80 pages, respectively. Justice Moreno averaged 76.8 pages. The shortest opinions that year were by Justice Kennard at 61.67 pages and Justice Werdegar at 58 pages. For 2007, Chief Justice George averaged 118.5 pages. Justice Baxter averaged 87 pages. Justices Kennard, Werdegar and Chin were all in the 60-page range – 66.67 pages, 65 pages and 60 pages. Justices Corrigan and Moreno wrote the shortest opinions that year at 43.67 pages and 42.5 pages.

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Join us back here next Thursday as we turn our attention to the Court’s majority opinions in non-death criminal cases between 2000 and 2007.