The Economist welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our comments policy.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Log in to your account.Don't have an account? Register
It was easy to predict Justice Clarence Thomas when Justice Scalia was alive and on the bench. Lacking jurisprudence of his own, Thomas voted 100% in step with Scalia. Alas, Thomas has become an orphan now without Scalia. He will hitch his wagon to Justice Samuel Alito, the consistent conservative.
So the 'quiet one' turns out to be a rather shrewd one? hehehe....
I think, in short, a very silly piece of research.
Main Q: What is the utility of it? By the time you are done with pitch, the judge's mind is made up, whatever it is.
So much yarn for 56%.
Just go study the judges' voting history and pattern and the ethos of the general culture and politics at the time they vote on the issue they vote on, or , better yet, to study and know how the individual thinks , you'd get about 75%. If you are really good, close to 80% to 90%.
This is the sort of things that come out of a strange sort of ivory tower. The ivory is plastic.
I guess it points to the need to have oral argument behind closed door. I always felt that oral argument is a publicity stunt, and the justices are not beyond vanity and egotism.
Of course they are not beyond vanity and egotism. The better talkers are really charming though. There have been a few of those. The best, of course, start with with a good mind. I happen to think a good legal mind is a beauty to behold. I don't want to name names; that gets too political. And TE is not the sort of forum for that type of brainy inquisition. But there have been only 3 or 4 anyway (for me) in the entire history of the Court, and they are all ancient. I agree with you oral argument is kind of a publicity stunt. Keeps the "pundits" busy. Everybody needs to be doing something to make a living, right? If you are really really cynical, you can say all of that "activity" is some kind of 2-way parasitism.
Statements about the accuracy of predictive models are always kind of tricky. In this case, much of the already slight predictive power seems to have come from the fact that petitioners usually win (note the significant fixed effect intercept); the paper itself points out that, at the vote level, vocal data added only 2.25% to a model that just sides with the petitioner. That the effect is so small might actually be a little surprising; you'd think that capturing the querulousness of judges would get you further than that.
This model also captures associations only for a handful of specific people. Rather than showing how vocal pitch differences predict decisions in general, it's showing certain small difference for these particular judges. (You can imagine a specific model becoming less useful over time, for all kinds of reasons.)
It'll be interesting to see whether more sophisticated data improve things. Facial expressions, other aspects of speech, body language, and so on might add up to something more. (You can imagine a world in which data on all the judges in the system is mined to generate game plans for lawyers; or, if permitted, even to provide real-time hints on the effectiveness of arguments. Especially in lower courts, this sort of thing could further benefit well-resourced sides.)
The focus on Kennedy (and kudos to the TE writer for reading not only the paper, but the supplemental information, too) also illustrates one problem with increasingly partisan appointments. It's not just that the court could become a rubber-stamp body for one party or the other, it's that it effectively becomes much smaller (for controversial cases). The point of having 9 justices is that they can deliberate, and that their consensus will be reasonable even if individuals make mistakes. If difficult decisions come down to one person, with the rest predictably split, the whole point of having a group of justices goes out the window.
"56% of the justices’ votes could be predicted on the basis of pitch difference."
In other words, just slightly better than a random coin flip. Actually, given that the sample size is actually rather small, that extra 6% is probably attributable to normal variation, so this is very likely no better than a random coin flip.
This just proves that "academics" and "researchers", if given sufficient time and money, can produce any specious conclusion you are in the market for.
Well, this is an interesting article and hypothesis. However, the conclusion from the statistics is rather doubtful. I can't say with a certainty that the results of the two methods reported are the same, but I'd wager they are considering the variability of factors. Furthermore, one can predict most anything with 95 factors! I'd also wager, I'd come close to the same predictability knowing the justices voting history and the issue at hand.
All Judges are corrupt (i.e. unfit for purpose), As Dale Carnegie puts it, "God Himself does not judge a man till the end of his days", and as Mokichi Okada puts it, those who judge others will be judged by God.
Prejudice can be purchased when it not inherent. The US has a great tradition to uphold. From the hanging lynch mobs to the Salem witch trials to Mc Carthyism. to Clinton-Albright's pillorying of Yugoslavia and Bush-Blair-Cheney-Powell's WMD in Iraq.
What a sanctimonious pile of crap.
A Daniel! A Daniel! Thank you for proving my point
What are you babbling about? How does pointing out that you posted a sanctimonious pile of crap prove your point unless you have a circular argument anyway. WTF is a Daniel?
Tut! Tut! That's the problem with today's youngsters. No knowledge of the Classics. Or classical endeavours such as logic and rhetoric. Thank you for proving my point.
That might be what a Suchindranath is.. You've offended a brahmin!
"The Supreme Court is supposed to be a dispassionate tribunal untainted by politics or emotion." Oh, that's a good one, hahahahahaha.
It is an ideal that is hard to achieve.All the people have emotions and relatively large set of opinions. By judges one at least expects that they will try to be less political than is the average. It is hard to assess if it is really the case.