DC Dicta may have tracked the justice who got the most laughs at oral arguments, but other Supreme Court experts also kept some stats this term.
During an end-of-term media briefing yesterday hosted by the National Chamber Litigation Center, the legal arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Supreme Court veteran litigator Sri Srinivasan said he kept a count – albeit an unofficial and unscientific one – of which justices were the most and least active during oral arguments. And here are some of the results:
“Ginsburg asked the first question [during oral arguments] the most times,” said Srinivasan, a partner in the Washington office of O’Melveny & Myers.
He said the second most frequent first-question-asker was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which was interesting, he noted, since new justices sometimes take a while to get their legs during oral arguments. “Sotomayor asks questions early,” Srinivasan said.
Anyone who has attended an oral argument at the Supreme Court knows that Breyer, a former law professor, likes to pose elaborate hypothetical questions to counsel. And it can often take some time to set up.
“Justice Breyer took up the most lines” in oral argument transcripts, Srinivasan said.
Of the justices who pose questions or comments during oral arguments (see below), the one who took the least amount of words to do so was Justice John Paul Stevens, who clearly prefers to keep things short and sweet (despite his usual added words of “May I ask you this question?”)
Silent Bob: Justice Clarence Thomas
And of course, there is Clarence Thomas, who hasn’t said anything during oral arguments for four terms.