How does the Supreme Court of Oregon rate with the other Top Courts of the fifty (50) states of the Union? The report card is in. The Supreme Court of Oregon would get a spanking if the report card were shown to their parents. Out of all fifty (50) states, Oregon's Supreme Court is fourth from the bottom in productivity. Worse, the Supreme Court of Oregon is the least influential court in the nation save Oklahoma and Texas.
In a May, 2008 study by the University of Chicago Law School (Chicago), the Oregon Supreme Court rates at the bottom of the barrel in both the number of written judicial opinions per justice and the number of times Oregon Supreme Court opinions are cited by other state courts. This definitive study entitled "Which States Have The Best (and Worst) High Courts?", authored by Professor Eric A Posner, advances the methodology of previous studies of state high court performance.
Previous state high court studies have followed a myriad of methodologies. The annual U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) study asks senior lawyers at corporations that earn more than $100 million per year to grade their state court systems using an A to F rating. A 2007 study by Dear & Jesson (Dear) focuses on how often a high court's written opinion is cited as authoritative by other state high courts. The Chicago study opines that the Chamber method might give high marks to state courts that decide cases in a manner that businesses like, ---rejecting punitive damages, for example.
The results of these studies can be used by legislatures to criticize or praise their judiciaries; ask for reform or use the ratings to decide on the appropriate compensation for state court judges. Business friendly high courts could be used to attract out-of-state business. The report states that "...public institutions that are not carefully monitored and evaluated will rarely have strong incentives to perform well."
Productivity -- The productivity ranking refers to the number of written opinions a judge/justice publishes in a year. The Chicago study states that publication rates provide an objective measure of individual judge effort and also shares that judicial legal reasoning with the parties and the public. Given that the practice of law is based on an individual lawyer's ability to predict what a judge is likely to do in a given fact situation, the more a state lawyer knows about how the state high court reasons the better.
Rating: The most productive state high court was Georgia whose high court issued 58 opinions per judge per year. The median was Kansas which issued 23 opinions per judge per year. Oregon issued 12 written opinions per judge per year and ranks 47th in productivity or almost at the bottom of all fifty states.
Influence (or Opinion Quality) -- This ranking refers to the quality of the reasoning in an opinion. It is done by proxy. This method measures the sum of all citations to Oregon Supreme Court cases by other state high courts, federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The study reasons that a high-quality written opinion is more likely to be useful for out-of-state courts and therefore more likely to be cited by those other courts as authoritative on a particular legal subject. Once again these well reasoned opinions help lawyers across the land predict outcomes for their clients.
Rating: California was the most-cited court with 34 outside citations per judge/justice per year. The median was South Dakota with 13 outside citations per judge/justice per year. Oregon was at the bottom (48th) with
less than 7 outside citations per judge/justice per year.
To download the study go to -- www.law.uchicago.edu/Lawecon/index.html
We may know now why the Supreme Court of Oregon eschews judicial evaluations.