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Oral Arguments Before the Supreme CourtAn Empirical Approach$
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Lawrence Wrightsman

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195368628

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195368628.001.0001

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Predicting Votes from Oral Arguments

Predicting Votes from Oral Arguments

(p.127) 7 Predicting Votes from Oral Arguments
Oral Arguments Before the Supreme Court

Lawrence S. Wrightsman

Oxford University Press

Two recent studies have concluded that Supreme Court decisions can be anticipated by the behavior of justices during the oral arguments, specifically that in the vast majority of cases (85%–90%) the eventual losing side was asked more questions by the justices. But the conclusions of these studies were based on a limited number of cases (10 to 14). This chapter evaluates the claim by examining all the cases (70 to 80) in each of five terms and refining the definition of a “question.” The chapter finds that the side asked the most questions does lose more often (about 60% of the time), but not to the degree claimed in the earlier studies. The effect is much more salient in ideological cases than in nonideological ones.

Keywords:   prediction of decisions, Devil’s advocate questioning, ideological cases, nonideological cases, more-questions-to-the-loser rule, Solicitor General

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