In 2005, Boston University law professor Jay
analyzed nine months of Supreme Court transcripts in a
semi-serious attempt to identify the court's funniest member. Based on
the number of remarks followed by the notation "[laughter]", Wexler
concluded Antonin Scalia
was the funniest
justice, a conclusion that seemed to support the public perception of
Scalia as a benevolent, Chicago-pizza-hating
Wexler's study was fun, but was his
methodology sophisticated enough? The New York Times' Adam Liptak
reports that, in a new study for The Communication
Law Review, Ryan
, a litigation consultant with a Ph.D. in communications,
takes Wexler's study one step further, examining every instance of
laughter in the Supreme Court's 2006-2007 to improve
on the earlier research, which, according to Malphurs, "lacked the methodological rigor and insight
normally attributable to social scientific studies" and "did not follow
traditional approaches to studying communication."
What does the
new study conclude? That Antonin Scalia is still the funniest Supreme
Court justice, prompting 60 of the 131 instances of laughter
during the term. Stephen Breyer was still second with 30, and John
Roberts was third with 12.
The famously taciturn Clarence Thomas
was last in both studies with zero laughs prompted.
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