Illinois Supreme Court: A First Look at the Questions Log for 2013


As I’ve written elsewhere, the Illinois Supreme Court tends to be what appellate attorneys call a “hot bench,” with questions potentially coming from any or all of the Justices in any given argument. With the May term having begun this morning with the argument in Relf v. Shatayeva, let’s take an early look at the question patterns for the first two terms of 2013.

In January and March, the Court heard argument in a total of eleven civil cases (only nine appellees made appearances however, slightly skewing the numbers). Not surprisingly, the level of questioning from the Justices varies widely from case to case – from a high of 34 questions in Mayfield v. Mayfield and 27 in VC&M v. Andrews, to lows of 8 each in DeHart v. DeHart and Russell v. SNFA. The same is true of individual Justices: each Justice has been active in some cases and less so in others. With only two of the eleven cases decided so far, it’s too early to attempt to draw even tentative conclusions about question patterns and decisions, but – again not surprisingly – the two cases already handed down are the ones that drew the fewest questions from the Court: DeHart and Russell.

Before presenting the data, one caution: as most appellate court watchers around the country know, counting questions in an oral argument is a somewhat subjective process. For example, when a Justice begins a question, counsel interposes a few words, and the Justice then continues or clarifies the point, is that one question or two? For that reason, another analyst’s numbers might vary slightly from those below, but the patterns should be the same. The chart below lists total questions to each party from each Justice in civil cases in the January and March terms. The numbers in parentheses show the number of times each Justice asked the first question of counsel.










12 (1)

17 (2)

19 (3)


35 (4)


12 (2)


11 (1)

14 (2)


7 (1)

17 (4)


10 (1)



1 (1)




6 (2)

11 (1)


23 (2)

32 (5)

20 (3)

11 (1)

62 (8)

20 (2)

33 (4)


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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