And Massachusetts

During SCOWstats’s recent series of posts on the number of decisions filed by the supreme courts of Wisconsin and neighboring states, Victor Forberger kindly brought to my attention some interesting figures regarding the output of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (hereafter MSJC).  Not to put too fine a point on it, the MSJC files an enormous number of decisions each year by Midwestern standards, as the following table indicates.[1]  Compare the MSJC average for the last three years (161 decisions/year) with the annual averages over a similar period for Wisconsin (52 decisions), Minnesota (91 decisions), Iowa (80 decisions), Illinois (66 decisions), and Michigan (27 decisions).[2]

(click on the table to enlarge it)


Mr. Forberger, whose career has included service as an administrative law judge in Massachusetts, explained that the “full opinions” in the table correspond to the decisions that I’ve been studying in Wisconsin and elsewhere.  That is, they do not encompass rulings on attorney disciplinary matters and orders pertaining to various motions and petitions.  Rescripts (generally just a few pages long) are unpublished summary dispositions—the sort of thing that I’ve omitted from my decision totals for other states.

MSJC opinions tend to be much shorter than their counterparts written in Wisconsin, and separate opinions are rare, Mr. Forberger added.  As for the central point here—the substantial volume of decisions filed by the justices in Massachusetts—he thought it likely that the supreme courts in some of New England’s other states resolved similarly large numbers of their citizens’ disputes each year.


[1] I did not compile these figures myself; they come from tables provided by Mr. Forberger.  Click here for a full set of this data. This fiscal year (FY) in Massachusetts ends on June 30.

[2] Click here for more complete data on Wisconsin and its four neighbors.

About Alan Ball

Alan Ball is a Professor of History at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.

SCOWstats offers numerical analysis of the voting by Wisconsin Supreme Court justices on diverse issues over the past 95 years.

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