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Law professors launch ScotusOA focusing on Supreme Court oral arguments

image of Supreme Court
Blog will allow readers to analyze large-scale trends in judicial behavior.

A study, which found that women justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are interrupted more often than men, attracted extensive media attention last year.

The study’s author Tonja Jacobi, professor of law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, said the response to “Justice, Interrupted: The Effect of Gender, Ideology and Seniority at Supreme Court Oral Arguments,” convinced her that people are interested in oral arguments and the behavior of the justices. 

As a result, she and law professor Matthew Sag of Loyola University of Chicago, decided to launch ScotusOA, a website dedicated to empirical analysis of Supreme Court oral arguments.

The blog’s target audience is law professors, lawyers, law reporters and those simply interested in the Supreme Court. 

“Oral arguments offer an excellent means of studying judicial behavior because justices are relatively unguarded at oral arguments, compared to the very careful crafting that goes into judicial opinions and judicial speeches,” Jacobi says.

They launched the new website partly as a forum for discussing their work with a broader audience, but also as a place to post updates on previous findings, analyze current developments and address topics that don’t quite fit in a law review article.

They have constructed a database with every transcript from 1955 to the current term and are able to analyze large-scale trends in judicial behavior, not only interruptions but levels of activity, advocate behavior, judicial advocacy behavior and the difference in interactions between justices who ultimately vote together and those who disagree. 

Jacobi and Sag say they are avid readers of the popular SCOTUSblog, of which they are not affiliated, but say the goal of their blog is to highlight how text data mining, empirical analysis, and legal analysis can be combined to analyze individual cases and broader trends across time.

“When the new Supreme Court term begins, we will also use some prediction metrics we have developed to forecast the results of cases based on the oral argument,” Jacobi says. “We wanted a forum where we could go on record predicting case outcomesbased on oral arguments. We use a lot of graphs to illustrate points, patterns and trends, which allows the reader to see for themselves what is going on.” 

They aim to post once a week on Monday mornings at 9 a.m. CDT, with occasional extra posts. Subscribe to blog and/or follow @Scotus_OA @MatthewSag and @TonjaJacobi on Twitter.

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