This post examines which Sixth Circuit judges write the most opinions. My analysis examined opinions available on Lexis over a five-year span. On average, the Sixth Circuit issues 1,348 signed opinions per year, and 212 per curiam opinions per year. The average active judge writes 59 signed opinions, which is about average for federal appellate judges, which comes to about 4.4% of the total signed opinions each year. Of the active Sixth Circuit judges, Judge Sutton and Judge Rogers authored the most opinions over the past five years, with each writing just over 5% of the total signed opinions. Since the outliers are only 10% more than the average, the judges appear successful in distributing the circuit’s workload evenly.
Senior judges combined to write 12.9% of the total signed opinions, with Judge Siler being the most active of them with an impressive average of 2.6% of the total opinions. As we have previously discussed, district judges frequently sit by designation on panels. Visiting judges authored no less than 32% of signed opinions.
Per curiam opinions made up 14% of the total number of Sixth Circuit decisions. Notably, judges seem to have different philosophies about using per curiam opinions. For instance, Judge Boggs had one of the highest rates of participation in per curiam opinions. Judge Boggs sat on 168 panels that issued per curiam opinions over the five year period—over 40% more than the average active judge at 119. By contrast, Judge Batchelder, who also served as Chief Judge, participated in only 50 panels that issued per curiam opinions.
We also found that some judges write separate opinions (dissents or concurrences) more often than others. Judge Moore led the group, writing a separate opinion in 11% of the cases she heard. Judge Cook concurred and dissented the least, writing a separate opinion for only 1% of the cases before her. See more on this in our previous post on dissenting and concurring in the Sixth Circuit.