Monday, January 17, 2011

Supreme Court Quips; Uses Footnotes, Too

No one would mistake oral argument at the Supreme Court for a night at the comedy club, but there are enough laughs in oral argument transcripts for scholars to study them. Supreme Court justices are not laughing at you. They're laughing with you., Wash. Post, Jan. 16, 2011.

For the studies, see:

I didn't find a free online source for Wexler's Laugh Track, but in the same spirit, readers might be interested in his article, Justice Ginsburg's Footnotes, 43 New Eng. L. Rev. 857 (2009), available at: Here is his abstract:
In this short article written for the New England School of Law's March Symposium on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I report on what happened when I embarked on a project of trying to read every single footnote Justice Ginsburg has ever written as a justice on the Supreme Court. As the article relates, this project was impossible to complete because Justice Ginsburg, it turns out, has written a lot, lot, lot of footnotes. Instead, I ended up reading all of Justice Ginsburg's footnotes from three of her terms. In the article, I develop a nine-part taxonomy of Supreme Court footnotes and categorize Justice Ginsburg's notes according to this taxonomy. The study reveals that, among other things, Justice Ginsburg does not use her footnotes, as some humor writers do, to make jokes. Also, she does not follow in the footsteps of the late, great David Foster Wallace and use footnotes to mirror the fractured nature of reality in her work. Instead, Justice Ginsburg uses footnotes to, for example, provide background information regarding cases under review, point out important aspects of case history, and respond to the arguments of other justices.

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