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Final Stat Pack for October Term 2016 and key takeaways

You can now download the final SCOTUSblog Stat Pack for October Term 2016 here. This year, the 43-page Stat Pack includes information about, among other things, the rate of unanimity, the opinions written by Justice Gorsuch in his first term, agreement among different justices, which justices asked the most questions at oral argument, and the advocates who argued the most frequently during the term.

Below you can view each section of the Stat Pack individually and review our key takeaways from the Stat Pack.

We would like to thank all of the individuals who provided comments and feedback on the Stat Pack throughout the term. Our Stat Pack is compiled as a labor of love, and once again the SCOTUSblog community has been hugely influential in shaping the content and design of our statistics. If you have any comments, suggestions or corrections, please do not hesitate to send me an email.

Key Takeaways

Opinion Distribution: Opinions were distributed relatively evenly within each sitting this term. The only sitting with an uneven distribution was January, when Chief Justice Roberts wrote two majority opinions (Expressions and Endrew F.) but Justice Thomas issued none. The mostly likely cause is that Justice Thomas was assigned the majority opinion in Dimaya, a case that was ultimately placed back on the calendar for reargument in OT17. Look out for whether Justice Thomas writes the majority opinion or lead dissenting opinion when Dimaya is ultimately decided. See Stat Pack, page 2.

Unanimity: An uncommonly large number of decisions were decided by a unanimous vote during OT16. Forty-one out of 69 opinions (59%) were decided 9-0, the highest number since OT13, when the court decided 66% of opinions by a unanimous vote. See Stat Pack, pages 5, 15-16.

Majority Opinion Authorship: Some justices are more likely to write opinions in divided cases than others. By this measure, Justice Kennedy wrote majority opinions in the most divisive cases, writing the opinion of the court in cases with an average majority vote of 7.0. That included three 5-4 opinions (Pena-Rodriguez, Murr, Cal. Public). See Stat Pack, page 13.

Apart from Justice Gorsuch, who wrote his lone majority opinion in 55 days, Justice Sotomayor was the fastest majority-opinion author during OT16. Justice Sotomayor’s majority opinions were released an average of 67 days after oral argument. Justice Kagan’s majority opinions had the longest delay between oral argument and opinion: 108 days. The average across all justices was 92 days. See Stat Pack, page 13.

Frequency in the Majority: Justice Kennedy was once again the justice most frequently in the majority, this time registering 69 majority votes in 71 cases (97%). Only twice in the last ten terms has Justice Kennedy not had the highest frequency in the majority. See Stat Pack, page 17.

Justice Agreement: The two justices with the highest agreement rate during OT16 were Justices Thomas and Gorsuch (100%), followed by the pairs of Justices Alito and Gorsuch (94.1%) and Ginsburg and Sotomayor (92.6%). The pair with the lowest rate of agreement was Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch (58.8%). See Stat Pack, page 26.

Oral Argument – Justices: Justice Breyer asked the highest number of questions at oral argument this term, averaging 20.5 questions per oral argument. The justices with the lowest average number of questions were Justices Alito (10.1 per argument) and Thomas, who followed his recent practice of not asking any questions at oral argument. Justice Ginsburg was once again the leader in asking the first question, registering the first statement in 30% of cases. See Stat Pack, page 32.

Oral Argument – Advocates: The relatively low number of cases led to a lower than usual number of attorney appearances at oral argument. Only 100 different lawyers argued 158 times during OT16, fewer than the 117 lawyers who argued 186 times during OT15. Women represented a greater percentage of total advocates during OT16 than in any term since we started recording this statistic in OT10. See Stat Pack, page 33-34.

Recommended Citation: Kedar Bhatia, Final Stat Pack for October Term 2016 and key takeaways, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 28, 2017, 5:04 PM),