Battlepanda: comedic justice


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

comedic justice

Laughter is represented in the transcript of the Supreme Court's oral arguments by the notation "[laughter]". But given the comedic standards of our supremes, I wonder if they also need notation for "[crickets chirping]".
That has now changed, and Jay D. Wexler, a law professor at Boston University, was quick to exploit the new data to analyze the relative funniness of the justices. His study, which covers the nine-month term that began that October, has just been published in a law journal called The Green Bag.

Justice Scalia was the funniest justice, at 77 "laughing episodes." On average, he was good for slightly more than one laugh - 1.027, to be precise - per argument.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer was next, at 45 laughs. Justice Ginsburg produced but four laughs. Justice Clarence Thomas, who rarely speaks during arguments, gave rise to no laughter at all.

Of course, what passes for humor at the Supreme Court would probably not kill at the local comedy club. Consider, for instance, the golden opportunity on Halloween this year when a light bulb in the courtroom's ceiling exploded during an argument.

It takes two justices, it turns out, to screw up a light bulb joke.

"It's a trick they play on new chief justices all the time," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who joined the court that month, said of the explosion.


"Happy Halloween," Justice Scalia retorted.


And then, the kicker. "We're even more in the dark now than before," Chief Justice Roberts said.