We’ve been reviewing the data for the average length of majority opinions during the 1990s and comparing it for correlations to the unanimity rate. In this post, we’re looking at the criminal docket. It turns out that the 1990s were a difficult time for this metric, given that the average length of majority opinions didn’t change substantially (at least in a lasting way).
It’s important to note that we’re defining criminal cases to include both death penalty and non-death cases (we’ll separate them out in a later post). In 1990, the average majority was 25.91 pages. That rose to 40.67 in 1992 but fell back to 27.27 in 1994. The average rose to 38.22 in 1996, 39.38 in 1997 and 41.87 in 1998, but fell back to 31.21 pages in 1999.
There was no consistent pattern in unanimity either. In 1990, 31.25% of criminal cases were unanimous. That rose to 62% in 1993 and 60.98% in 1994, but the increase was temporary: 40.2% in 1995, 36.59% in 1996, 45.45% in 1997, 44.44% in 1998 and 41.67% in 1999.
Image: Fort Point, by Helen Hyde
Image courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum (Creative Commons License)