The Texas litigation consultant studied all the notations of laughter during the court’s 2006-2007 term, and discovered a few more himself while listening to tapes.
He found that fewer than half the comments were directed to the lawyer in front of the justices, or even to the argument he or she was making.
The rest were self-referential, or about the court, or about some third party, such as Congress or government in general.
In scholarly fashion, Malphurs – who studied the court for his communications dissertation at Texas A&M – looked for deeper meaning:
“The justices’ laughter diminishes formal control and power barriers, facilitating communication amongst themselves, between the justices and advocates, and with the audience members as well.”
I met Ryan on the Supreme Court sidewalk before the first day of the term, where he gave me a preview of this study as we paced in front of the Court trying to keep warm. He stayed in line for the rest of that first week and later, in a post for F1@1F, reflected on his night with the crowd for Snyder v. Phelps.
Congratulations on the great press, Dr. Malphurs, and keep up the great work!
UPDATE (1/24/11): Adam Liptak of the New York Times gives Malphurs’s study a look.
I’m off to class now, but I hope to get my recap of the Schwarzenegger v. EMA argument up at a reasonable hour. Briefly, the California lawyer got mercilessly pummeled by Sotomayor, Scalia, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Kennedy, while Roberts stayed almost completely quiet for the first half-hour, only to be EMA’s prime antagonist during the second half-hour. Breyer joined Roberts in support of the CA law, while Alito, who had sharply questioned CA, more sharply questioned EMA. Alito also had some lighthearted, but jurisprudentially serious, quips towards Scalia on the limits of originalism for First Amendment cases concerning media never imaginable in 1791, let alone 1951.
Until then, here are some scenes from the sidewalk:
The First Lady of First One @ One First and I just returned from a weekend trip to Philly. We left on Friday, just in time for her to be a captive audience to the Court’s just-released audio from last week’s oral arguments. But moments into Snyder v. Phelps, her initial reluctance gave way to rapt attention and demands to “pause it!” so she could give her own impressions of the issue at hand. She enjoyed the back-and-forth of the justices and advocates so much that when we hit the road today, she asked to pass the time at the toll booths with Connick v. Thompson.
For those who do not have an hour on hand to subject your special someone to the full SCOTUS treatment, Josh Blackman of The Harlan Institute has produced a thirteen minute “FantasyCast” of Snyder as part of the Institute’s FantasySCOTUS project. In it, he compiles the argument’s audio highlight reel to create a very effective summary of what transpired last Tuesday morning.
Despite his job well done on the FantasyCast, however, I know Josh would agree that the full hour’s argument is worth the listen. To put the FLOF1@1F’s enthusiasm in context, it took her three years to tune her ear to the differences between AC/DC’s Bon Scott and Brian Johnson eras, but only two hours to correctly identify each justice by voice. If she’s proven more fit for the Supreme Court Side Walk than the Heavy Metal Parking Lot, I’m certainly not complaining. In fact, should her response be typical for non-SCOTUS obsessives, then the Court should consider augmenting its annual budget with some lucrative summer arena tours. Talk about two birds, one stone: the justices would be able to quit their annual Congressional grovel for pay raises, and the peoples’ increased opportunity to watch the Court in action would quell some of the cries for cameras in the courtroom.
Orlando Bethel explains why hating gays is congruent with embracing civil rights.
Zion Bethel, 12, and his sister Kazia, 14, talk about sin, perfection, and getting thrown out of dance class.
Zoe Bethel, 15, contemplates a God of hate and love.
Students from Eastern University’s political affairs club share their thoughts on the Phelps’s.
Sam Garrett, a GW freshman, strips to his skivvies on the Supreme Court Sidewalk in counter-protest to the Westboro Baptist Church.
Some photos from the sidewalk:
And here’s a bonus video:
The Snyder v. Phelps line began Monday night at 8pm. Twenty-four hours later, the Georgetown undergraduate students who started the line were joined by fifty more new friends. The Bethel family, pictured above, were not out there to make friends. Here’s a video of Glynis Bethel, the family’s mother, on their beliefs:
Videos of the rest of the family coming soon. More footage to be taken tomorrow morning, too!
For the final installment of F1@1F’s Supreme Court Side Walk series, meet General Lee Shelton. Hailing from Noname, Alaska (a town he said situated itself 875 miles northwest of Anchorage, but may not exist if Google Maps has anything to say about it), Shelton showed up at 1:30am on June 28 to spend half an hour telling us stories with factual moorings as dubious as his whereabouts.
Shelton had come to the Court via a flight from Alaska to Washington State, then a bus to Ft. Worth and onward to DC, where he had been wandering for hours by bus, train, and foot. His performance began humbly enough when he asked for directions to Union Station, where he hoped to catch a train to Virginia Beach. But then he put his bags down and started to talk.
Here’s some footage of the Shelton telling us about the grizzly bear that licked his face (pardon the dark exposure):
When Shelton finished his monologue–which included the heartwarming tale of Moose, the white moose that Noname adopted as its mascot–the eight of us gave him the heartiest applause we could muster.
Glowing from this reception, Shelton said that he may not have much money, but “I got a pocket full of smiles and I love giving them out.” He then picked up his bags and headed north up First Street towards Union Station.
UPDATE: Here’s the “Moose the Moose” story, courtesy of Daniel Rice:
Monday’s going to be a doozy. Last day of the term. Stevens’s last day ever. Decisions on Guns and God (Gays was decided yesterday), as well as a bit of man v. machine and what may be the financial industry’s own Citizens United.
But that’s not all!
About two hours after the Court lets out for its summer recess, the Senate starts its preseason tryouts with Elena Kagan.
I plan on being in the Courtroom and the hearing room. And my liveblogging the latter will hopefully be made more colorful by my sleepless Sunday night on the Supreme Court Side Walk.
That’s right: I will be conducting a my own final F1@1F campout for the term. I suspect it will be a fun one, as the Guns and God oral arguments had the earliest and most enthusiastic lines of the term – and Monday’s certainty of those decisions and the drastically warmer weather (plus the prospect of a stately nonagenarian screaming, “I’m Outta Here!” to a captive audience, tossing reams of paper into the air in a sign of aged defiance) point to a big turnout.
I’d love to see some F1@1F readers out there, too. If you’re planning on coming to the sidewalk, please do let me know.
Interview with my usurpers:
More footage from tonight and tomorrow morning later this week.