Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1414317
 
 

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Inferring the Winning Party in the Supreme Court from the Pattern of Questioning at Oral Argument


Lee Epstein


University of Southern California

William M. Landes


University of Chicago Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Richard A. Posner


University of Chicago Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

August 2009

University of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 466

Abstract:     
Chief Justice John Roberts, and others, have noticed that the lawyer in an oral argument in the Supreme Court who is asked more questions than his opponent is likely to lose the case. This paper provides rigorous statistical tests of that hypothesis and of the related hypothesis that the number of words per question asked, as distinct from just the number of questions asked, also predicts the outcome of the case. We explore the theoretical basis for these hypotheses. Our analysis casts light on competing theories of judicial behavior, which we call the 'legalistic' and the 'realistic.' In the former, the questioning of counsel is a search for truth; in the latter, it is a strategy for influencing colleagues. Our analysis helps to distinguish between these hypotheses by relating questioning practices to the individual Justice’s ideology and to the role of a 'swing' Justice.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 41

Keywords: Supreme Court, judicial behavior

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Date posted: June 6, 2009 ; Last revised: November 4, 2009

Suggested Citation

Epstein, Lee and Landes, William M. and Posner, Richard A., Inferring the Winning Party in the Supreme Court from the Pattern of Questioning at Oral Argument (August 2009). University of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 466. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1414317 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1414317

Contact Information

Lee Epstein
University of Southern California ( email )
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
HOME PAGE: http://epstein.usc.edu/
William M. Landes (Contact Author)
University of Chicago Law School ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-9606 (Phone)
773-702-0356 (Fax)
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Richard A. Posner
University of Chicago Law School ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
LBQ 611
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-9608 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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