Two months into the term, the Supreme Court has held oral arguments in 19 different cases. After reading a few of the transcripts, I thought it would be interesting to see which Justices spoke most often during oral arguments.

I found transcripts from the usual place and I copied the text into TextMate. From there, I conducted a simple ‘search’ function that returned only results with the proper case. I searched for Justices names in all caps in an effort to avoid conversational references to Justices. For example, a search for ‘JUSTICE SCALIA’ would not return references to his name when another individual mentioned his name. I subtracted two (2) counts from the Chief Justice because he signals the beginning and end of every case. Justice are frequently cut off when beginning a question which can lead to them being counted twice in the tally, but that should effect all Justices equally.

Case JR JPS AS AK DS CT RBG SB SA TOTAL (LAUGHTER)
Washington 20 23 20 18 24 0 10 0 6 121 3
Tom F. 41 1 23 0 2 0 12 9 7 95 0
Gall 20 19 34 4 13 0 8 10 8 116 3
Kimbrough 10 18 13 10 12 0 7 10 4 84 2
Torres 28 9 21 16 12 0 8 9 4 107 4
Santos 23 8 26 12 7 0 7 5 7 95 1
Watson 24 11 22 10 10 0 15 12 5 109 3
Stoneridge 17 9 23 18 38 0 39 0 6 150 1
Medellin 40 18 33 26 20 0 41 35 9 222 3
Klein 20 23 7 8 17 0 29 30 3 137 0
Ali 11 12 14 0 16 0 12 10 7 82 1
Williams 11 7 15 15 11 0 15 12 14 100 3
Logan 14 1 12 8 5 0 8 0 4 52 0
Danforth 17 17 20 18 18 0 12 4 2 108 6
CSX 32 11 35 10 34 0 8 4 5 139 3
Davis 34 13 1 16 16 0 6 21 11 118 6
John R. 20 10 7 9 0 0 21 7 4 78 4
Fed. Ex. 24 2 59 4 9 0 23 27 6 154 5
Hall 37 11 29 20 35 0 18 25 2 177 3
TOTAL 443 223 414 222 299 0 299 230 114 2244 51
AVERAGE 23 12 22 12 16 0 16 12 6 118 3
ST DEV 9.7 6.6 13.0 7.0 10.7 0.0 10.6 10.5 3.0 39.1 1.9

You can find a far more asthetically pleasing version of the chart here. You can find the data in .xls format here and .numbers format here.

Some of the results were obvious- Justice Thomas doesn’t speak at all and Justice Scalia speaks a lot. Justice Scalia has the highest standard deviation, meaning his activity is the least predictable (without looking at the facts of cases.)

Speaking frequency isn’t strongly tied to writing frequency. The most frequent authors, Stevens, Scalia, and Thomas, speak it very different frequencies. Roberts and Alito, the two least prolific writers, are the most and least frequent interrogators, respectively.

Justice Ginsburg speaks less than I had expected. Looking back a major cases from last term, it shouldn’t have surprised me that Justice Ginsburg doesn’t speak too often. In Ledbetter, she spoke only 29 times, a number that is above her average, but not alarming by any means. In Carhart, she also spoke an inconspicuously low 10 times.



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