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Speech Patterns and Opinion Authorship of Female U.S. Supreme Court Justices

Sun, September 3, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hilton Union Square, Union Square 14


Female justices are still relatively new to the U.S. Supreme Court. There have only been four women appointed to the Court since 1789, the first of whom did not ascend to the bench until 1981. Prior to Sandra Day O'Connor's appointment to the Court, every justice had been male, and overwhelmingly the composition of the Court has been white and Protestant. However, women have been gaining more representation in political institutions over time and scholars have sought to understand what women's presence in political institutions substantively means. For example, female U.S. state legislators pursue feminist initiatives; passing and proposing policies related to women's issues; expressing being a representative to women; and seeking legislation on health, education, and welfare policies (e.g., Saint-Germain 1989; Dodson and Carroll 1991; Berkman and O'Connor 1993; Thomas 1991, 1994, 1997; Dolan and Ford 1995; Reingold 1992; Considine and Deutchman 1994; Thomas and Welch 1991). Similarly, U.S. congresswomen have voted differently on specific women's issues than their male counterparts (Tatalovich and Schier 1993; Burrell 1994; Dolan 1997; Swers 1998) as well as sponsor and co-sponsor women's issues and caregiver legislation at high rates than men (Tamerius 1995; Vega and Firestone 1995; Swers 2000, 2002; Wolbrecht 2002). However, less attention has been paid to how female justices influence the decision-making process of the Court. As the Court becomes more gender diverse, it creates an opportunity to analyze the impact of women on the U.S. Supreme Court. Specifically, we develop and test expectations about female justices speech patterns during oral arguments and opinion authorship. Further, we are interested in examining how the behavior of both the male and female justices change as more women are appointed to the Court.