Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Data Crunching Justices' Writing Styles

If you've read Supreme Court cases from the early 19th century and the early 21st century, you probably have a sense that writing styles have changed. But can you quantify that?

Three scholars from Dartmouth and UVa (two mathematicians and a law professor) can. They find that opinions have grown longer but easier to read. Justices writing at the same time tend to have more similar styles than those separated by a hundred years. Consistency is probably aided by clerks.

You can read the whole paper on SSRN:
Keith Carlson, Michael A. Livermore, Daniel Rockmore, A Quantitative Analysis of Writing Style on the U.S. Supreme Court, 93 Wash. U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016)
Hear also this interview with coauthor Michael Livermore, focusing on the increase in negative language.

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