11 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2012 Last revised: 25 Oct 2012
Date Written: July 4, 2012
Are judges, lawyers, and law professors more likely to cite readable judicial opinions? To answer this question, I created a dataset of nearly one hundred opinions and analyzed them based on their readability. It turns out readability doesn’t correlate with the number of citations. Instead, variables such as the number of words and the opinion’s subject matter correlate with citations.
To be sure, readability is subjective. But linguists have created objective measures of readability — such as the number of passive sentences in the opinion and the Flesch-Kincaid grade level. I use these measures throughout. Part I provides background information on readability. Part II summarizes the data, and Part III presents the results.
Keywords: readability, Flesch-Kincaid, judicial opinions, citations
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