Study: High Court Justices’ Interruptions Indicate How They’ll Vote - Washington Whispers
Want to know how the Supreme Court will rule on a hot-button case like gay marriage? Just follow the oral arguments and see who interrupts the lawyers. That’s the conclusion of a study from the University of Arkansas, which found that Supreme Court Justices are more likely to interrupt and counter a counsel’s arguments when they do not agree with them.
The authors studied 11 cases from 2009 and 2010, along with the voting records of eight of the justices on those cases and how often those justices interrupted. Justice Clarence Thomas’s votes were not studied, as he has not spoken during a court argument in the last five years.
“Justices get to interrupt and they do it often. We saw that there were around 140 interruptions per case, and we thought that had to mean something,” says Christopher Kimmel, an honors undergraduate at the university and the lead author of the study.
And it did. In cases they studied that were more politically charged, such as the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC case that allowed for unrestricted political spending by corporations and unions, “Justices come to the bench knowing exactly what they believe about the issue,” says Kimmel, “and then they interrupt to get a justice who is on the fence to swing” their vote.