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Did Longer Majority Opinions in Civil Cases Affect the Unanimity Rate (Part 1 – 1990-1999)?


A few posts ago, I noted that analytics research has demonstrated a correlation between the length of majority opinions and the rate of unanimous opinions – shorter opinions, more unanimity; longer opinions and less unanimity.  So what happened for civil cases between 1990 and 1999?

As we noted a few posts ago, majority opinions were trending longer during this decade.  The average majority was 17.92 pages in 1990, 23.14 by 1994, and after topping out at 28.39 in 1996, still 24.9 pages in 1999.

Although the correlation was by no means smooth, unanimous opinions were indeed becoming less frequent.  In 1990, the unanimity rate was 58.97%.  The rate was still high in 1993 – 58.7%.  By 1995, it was 52.63%.  In 1996, when majority opinions spiked, only 45.16% of civil cases was unanimous.  That number went up the next year, but then fell again: 53.7% in 1998 and 46.15% in 1999.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the criminal cases.

Image: Department of the Treasury exhibits in the Palace of Machinery, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915

Image courtesy of Smithsonian Libraries and Archives (Creative Commons License)


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