Once again, I’ve conjured up some charts marking how often each Justice spoke during oral arguments in the first half of the term. You can find a detailed look into my methodology here but to summarize, these numbers represent the number of times ‘JUSTICE ______’ is mentioned in the oral argument transcripts posted on the Court’s website here. Searching only for the capitalized phrase eliminates catching respectful mentions of the Justices from counsel. Click on the files to see a larger image.

Overall Stats

Once again, Justice Scalia comes in as the most talkative and averages 21 comments per hour of arguments. That shouldn’t surprise many people as he has always been known to be a particularly vocal member of the court. Justice Thomas still hasn’t spoken since February 22, 2006. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer both average about 18 comments per case. On the other side of the spectrum, Justice Alito spoke an average of only 5 times per case. Justices Stevens, Kennedy, and Ginsburg spoke with similar frequency at 12, 11, and 10 times per argument, respectively.

Speaking per circuit

This chart covers the difference between Justices’s overall speaking average and their average per individual court. I’ve highlighted the times when justices had variations of greater than 5 in either direction. I was particularly surprised to see that Ninth Circuit Cases had very little effect on justices, and, if anything, they actually spoke slightly less than usual.

When more cases start coming down, I’ll be interested to see what effect speaking frequency has on voting. Does Justice Kennedy speak more when he votes in favor of a case? Do Justices Stevens or Scalia speak more when they think a case will come down 5-4? With only 2 cases decided on merit thus far, its hard to say at this point but I’ll keep track of the decisions as they come down and post when I’ve collected enough data for some basic analysis.

You can find the data in these formats: xls, numbers, and, of course, pdf. Feel free to play with the data and let me know what conclusions you come up with!


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