The Role of Emotional Language in Briefs Before the U.S. Supreme Court
49 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2015
Date Written: December 15, 2015
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
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