Are we laughing with them?
Conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court get more laughs than their left-left leaning colleagues, a new study reveals.
As reported in today’s New York Times, a team of researchers listened to recordings of every argument in the term that ended last year:
There were “343 instances of humor,” and all of the justices turned out to be funnier than previously thought, except for Justice Clarence Thomas, who did not speak during that term.
The humor differential ranged from 26 percent for Chief Justice Roberts to an astounding 200 percent for Justice Ginsburg, whom the study called a “true comedian.” Justice Kagan improved her performance by 53 percent.
As in so much else, the court’s five more conservative members prevailed.
“It turns out that the conservatives dominate, even carrying the silence of Justice Thomas, with 207 instances of laughter, or 41 instances per justice,” the study found. “The liberal justices trail with 136 instances — the same number as Justice Scalia on his own.”
Study aside, the justices themselves keep track on their own, checking rankings derived from written transcripts of oral arguments at the court.
Justice Kagan said she checked the rankings from time to time to see who leads in generating laughs. It is, she said, hard to compete.
“Justice Scalia is so way out in front of everybody else,” she said. “Justice Scalia has like lapped us 10 times.”
“I’m very securely in the middle,” she added, “but I heard somebody say I’m underperforming.”