Elements of Judicial Style: A Quantitative Guide to Neil Gorsuch's Opinion Writing

52 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2018 Last revised: 17 Oct 2019

See all articles by Nina Varsava

Nina Varsava

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Date Written: April 21, 2018


Commentary on judicial writing often features Neil Gorsuch’s opinions, but no one has attempted to examine his stylistic proclivities in a systematic way. This article presents results from my quantitative study of published opinions from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals during Gorsuch’s tenure there. The data analysis illuminates Gorsuch’s stylistic fingerprint, revealing how he has achieved the stylistic effect that has impressed many observers. I find that Gorsuch’s writing style is remarkably informal and unconventional compared to his Tenth Circuit peers. Moreover, Gorsuch’s opinions have a lot in common with fiction writing. They are often suspenseful, and they contain a broad range of vocabulary but limited legal jargon and citation. I also analyze Gorsuch’s stylistic drift over the past decade, revealing trends that might give us a sense of what to expect from the Justice’s writing for the Supreme Court.

Keywords: Judicial Opinions, Federal Courts, Gorsuch, the Judicial Profession, Textual Analysis, Computational Linguistics, Natural Language Processing, Digital Humanities

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K15, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Varsava, Nina, Elements of Judicial Style: A Quantitative Guide to Neil Gorsuch's Opinion Writing (April 21, 2018). 93 NYU Law Review Online 75 (2018), Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1489, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3166538

Nina Varsava (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin-Madison ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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

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