April Week 1 in Review

Here are the mini-analyses I ran this week:

  1. Text Analysis of Thompson v. Clark (20-659)

Below is an analysis from Thompson v. Clark (20-659) which was released this week. It was a 6-3 decision. First, here is a wordcloud (a visualization of the most dominant words used) of the majority opinion authored by Justice Kavanaugh

Justice Alito authored the dissent joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch (note the lack of consensus from the conservative justices). Here is a wordcloud of the dissent

Finally, the text statistics broken into two columns for comparison. The first column looks at the majority opinion and the second column examines the dissent

2. Merits Amicus Participation OT 2021

Interested in which Supreme Court cases are getting the most attention this term? In political science one often used measure looks at newspaper coverage of the cases (e.g. http://www.columbia.edu/~jrl2124/salience.pdf). Another tracks amicus briefs. Here is a list of amicus briefs in all argued cases that were accepted on certiorari this term. As far as I can tell the Dobbs case has the record for the most such briefs filed in a case. 

3. Oral Arguments in Morgan v. Sundance

3. On March 21, 2022 the Supreme Court heard arguments in Morgan v. Sundance, Inc. Morgan v. Sundance, a case looking at whether the arbitration-specific requirement that the proponent of a contractual waiver defense prove prejudice violates the Court’s instruction in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion that lower courts must “place arbitration agreements on an equal footing with other contracts.” The transcript is available at: https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2021/21-328_3ebh.pdf. Karla Gilbride of Public Justice argued for the Petitioner and Paul Clement of Kirkland & Ellis argued for the Respondent. Let’s look a little deeper into the justices’ engagement in the case. These graphs provide the number of words, sentences, and talking turns for each justice and for each side’s arguments. These provide some of the nuance between the different metrics.

Breyer for instance spoke the most of the justices if we gauge this by sentences and words spoken. The words measure though shows that Breyer spoke considerably more during the petitioner’s argument. When there is a differential like this it typically shows a greater likelihood that a justice will vote against the party engaged more at arguments. Breyer spoke a total of 956 words.
Going by the sentences measure Sotomayor spoke next more and then Gorsuch. Sotomayor was more balanced in her sentences and words differentials while Gorsuch spoke a bit less than twice as many words during petitioner’s argument when compared to respondent’s argument.
At the bottom of this graph we see that Barrett spoke the second least but about evenly to petitioner’s and respondent’s attorneys. Alito only engaged Ms. Gilbride evincing the likelihood that he will vote against the petitioner. These talking turns and amounts spoke are also available graphically across each party’s argument. The petitioner’s argument breakdown looks as follows.

Justice Breyer has two chunks of talking turns while others like Alito and Gorsuch have just one chunk apiece. During respondent’s argument Justice Kagan has three substantial chunks of talking turns while Justice Barrett is fairly quiet.

Justice Kavanaugh has multiple small chunks of engagement and CJ Roberts adds only a little bit during these arguments. Hopefully this visual layout helps with an understanding of how arguments can be quantified. 

4. Jackson’s Confirmation

With Judge Jackson now becoming Justice Jackson here is some historic info. This spreadsheet and graphic look at Justice confirmations since 1950.

Note the definite change in voting practices over the last decade.

5. Cert Amici

Cert amici can be a good predictor of a case’s likelihood of a cert grant as they can show diverse support from interests beyond the direct parties. These amici are also expending money and resources without any guarantee that the Court will hear the case. Many cases including several of those that the Supreme Court granted this term have 0 associated cert amicus briefs. According to website Certpool, the active petition with the most amicus support is CA Trucking v. AG of CA with 12 briefs. The most amicus briefs filed by a group in granted cases this term is 3 (the most of any group this term). 3 groups filed this many in granted cases: Washington Legal Foundation, Intl Municipal Lawyers Assn., and Immigration Law Institute. The most cert amici in granted cases this term is 10. The average number of cert amicus briefs in cases with at least one such brief is 2.86. Here is a list of cert amici count in all granted cases with at least one associated brief this term.

Expect more of these mini-analyses to come.

Find Adam on Twitter: @AdamSFeldman

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