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.
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.