The Role of Emotional Language in Briefs Before the U.S. Supreme Court

49 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2015  

Ryan C. Black

Michigan State University - Department of Political Science

Matthew E.K. Hall

University of Notre Dame

Ryan J. Owens

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Political Science

Eve Ringsmuth

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater

Date Written: December 15, 2015

Abstract

The legal brief is a primary vehicle by which lawyers seek to persuade appellate judges. Despite wide acceptance that briefs are important, empirical scholarship has yet to establish their influence on the Supreme Court or fully explore justices' preferences regarding them. We argue emotional language conveys a lack of credibility to justices and thereby diminishes the party's likelihood of garnering justices' votes. The data concur. Using an automated textual analysis program, we find that parties who employ less emotional language in their briefs are more likely to win a justice's vote, a result that holds even after controlling for other features correlated with success, such as case quality. These findings suggest advocates seeking to influence judges can enhance their credibility and attract justices' votes by employing measured, objective language.

Keywords: Briefs, Supreme Court, credibility

Suggested Citation

Black, Ryan C. and Hall, Matthew E.K. and Owens, Ryan J. and Ringsmuth, Eve, The Role of Emotional Language in Briefs Before the U.S. Supreme Court (December 15, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2703875 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2703875

Ryan C. Black

Michigan State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

HOME PAGE: http://ryancblack.org

Matthew E.K. Hall

University of Notre Dame ( email )

361 Mendoza College of Business
Notre Dame, IN New South Wales 46556-5646
United States

Ryan J. Owens (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Political Science ( email )

406 North Hall
1050 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-263-2279 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.wisc.edu/profiles/rjowens@wisc.edu

Eve Ringsmuth

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater ( email )

Stillwater, OK 74078-0555
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
369
Rank
62,851
Abstract Views
1,190