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As Usual, Justice Scalia Provokes Most Courtroom Laughter in Supreme Court's Latest Term

While you were busy trying to learn how to play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on your ukulele, Boston University law professor Jay Wexler was trying to learn how to play "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on his ukulele and updating his seminal Supreme Court oral argument humor study

As Wexler notes in this post Monday on PrawfsBlawg, he conducted his research in his typical "half-assed fashion" (which included the ukulele distraction) by reviewing the Supreme Court's oral argument transcripts and "count[ing] the number of times each justice said something funny enough to make the court reporter enter the phrase "[laughter]" in the transcript." 

For the 2012 term, Wexler breaks down the laugh-provoking comments as follows:

  • Justice Antonin Scalia: 83 laughs. According to Wexler, Scalia was particularly on his game during the health care oral arguments, when he racked up a Seinfeldian 14 laughs.
  • Justice Stephen Breyer: 56 laughs
  • Chief Justice John Roberts: 30 laughs
  • Justice Elena Kagan: 15 laughs
  • Justice Anthony Kennedy: 14 laughs
  • Justice Samuel Alito: 7 laughs
  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 6 laughs
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 2 laughs
  • Justice Clarence Thomas: 0 laughs

Wexler also offers a list of some of funnyman Scalia's greatest hits, including "it must be unconstitutional if it's scary" (U.S. v. Jones) and "that is absolutely weird" (Elgin v. Department of the Treasury). Wexler's research shows that Scalia also led the court in laughs in the 2005 term and in the 2007 term.

Posted by Bruce Carton on August 14, 2012 at 04:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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