Oral Argument in the Early Roberts Court: A Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Individual Justice Behavior
James Cleith Phillips
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Students
Brigham Young University
June 1, 2011
Journal of Appellate Practice and Process, Vol. 11, 2010
This is the second in a series of articles by the authors examining U.S. Supreme Court oral argument from both qualitative and quantitative perspectives. The first article examined how information seeking and the quantity of verbal activity has changed from the 1960s to the present, and that research sought to determine causes of Justices‘ behavior during oral argument. This article builds on that research by zeroing in on just the Justices of the Roberts Court to determine if their levels of information seeking and word counts are predictive final vote on the merits. Whereas the first article only looked at First Amendment-related cases in order to ensure ideological salience, this study uses random sampling to increase the ability to generalize the results. Content analyzing 57 cases and over 13,000 sentences from 2004-2009, this study found that for three of the Justices the difference of level of information seeking between two sides in a case predicts their eventual vote, and for five of the Justices the disparity between word counts for the petitioner and respondent foreshadow voting on the merits. Additionally, the authors looked at the tone and style of each current Justice on the Roberts Court in order to create a typology describing each, with quotes from oral argument transcripts providing relevant examples. This is the first known study to look at individual Justice behavior during oral argument and seek to predict each Justices‘ voting based on that behavior.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 75
Keywords: oral argument, Supreme Court
Date posted: September 13, 2009 ; Last revised: June 22, 2011
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