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Is the U.S. Supreme Court becoming more long winded and more disagreeable?

by Chris Booberg on May 05, 2015

I have been asked why there are so many dissents and concurrences in the opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court.  If the law is clear and these are seven of the smartest lawyers in the U.S., why can't they agree on what the law means?  The law is always subject to interpretation and the opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court show that interpretations differ depending on point of view, personal experience and judicial philosophy.

I came across an article that highlighted some statiscial studies that had been done on the opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court.  You can find the article here.  Until this article, I had wondered about the tone of the opinions of the Court being sometimes less than friendly among the judges, but I did not realize that it represented a real shift in the Court.  The study of the tone of the court was perormed by analyzing opinions for words that were thought to be positive and negative.  Based on the findings as reported in the article, the Court's opinions are becoming less frieindly.

The study also noted that the opinions are becomign more lengthy.  As opposed to the opinion in Brown v. Board of Education which contained 4,000 words when published in 1954, the opinion in Citizens United was over 48,000 words.  

It seems that the Justices of the Surpeme Court are becoming less likely to "agree to disagree" and more likey to resort to negative responses to the opinions of their fellow Justices.  How this impacts the legacy of the Court remains to be seen.

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