By Timothy R. Johnson
How oral arguments impression the choices of very best courtroom justices.
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Extra resources for Oral Arguments and Decision Making on the United States Supreme Court (American Constitutionalism)
WEDDINGTON: You mean if the State, in fact, did that? JUSTICE WHITE: Well, let’s assume it were constitutional for the State to prevent abortions after six months. MRS. WEDDINGTON: It would still be void on its face in this situation because it’s overly broad. It interferes at a time when a state has no JUSTICE WHITE: Well, this isn’t a free speech case. The statute might be perfectly valid in part, and invalid in part. You’re saying it’s invalid on its face—totally invalid—that it may not apply to—the statute may not prevent an abortion, no matter when the abortion takes place.
These include arguments that explicitly refer to external actors’ preferences, the implications of a case, and hypothetical questions asked by the Court during oral arguments. Each of these subsets provides information about the external ramifications of a case for the justices. First, obtaining information about other actors’ preferences allows the justices to assess how close to their own preferred outcome they can place policy without incurring sanctions from actors whose preferred outcomes may differ from the Court’s.
That is, I use the Spaeth data to determine the circumstances under which the Supreme Court turns to oral arguments when making substantive decisions. My task is to use these data to systematically explain the role oral arguments play in the Supreme Court’s decision-making process. Only by comparing the oral argument transcripts with the justice’s internal records and final opinions can I test whether information from these proceedings plays a strategic and informational role for the Supreme Court.