The Supreme Court of the United States—the highest court in the U.S.—makes decisions that can affect everyday lives of many Americans and the course of this nation.
The Supreme Court, 2009:
One might appreciate the fierce (or dry, depending on your perspective) exchanges of constitutional arguments among the top contemporary legal minds. Unfortunately, indulging on such on C-SPAN is not a possibility since cameras are not allowed in the Court (John Oliver of Last Week Tonight highlighted this).
However, recordings and transcripts are available to the public and easily accessible, and projects like Oyez project, which presents the oral arguments with interactive transcript and audio, put some life into the otherwise inanimate records.
One might expect that laughter would be rare in the solemn Court. However, despite the gravity of the matters handled, humors and laughters—regardless of the original intents—are not absent:
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: "It's peanut butter and honey sometimes."
The audience: "[Laughter.]"
From Marx v. General Revenue Corp.
In fact, this topic has been covered by media and study (a follow up).
Chasing after the Supreme Laughters
So what's under the Supreme Laughters? How many are there? In order to answer, we can utilize publicly available data (for this posting, data from 1955-2015 were used). There are many exciting/interesting things to do with the information, but today I focused solely on the laughters in the Court. The source of the data is Oyez.
How many laughters?
The occurrences of laughters can be extracted from the oral argument transcripts. Here's a plot of yearly average laughter per case:
With standard error:
Who is the Chief Supreme Laughter Generator?
Given his colorful personality and his time in the Court, it's not a surprise that Justice Scalia has generated a large number of laughters in the Court. Here is a plot of total laughters induced for each justice (during 1955-2016 terms):
This plot is the same as above but the number of total laughters was divided by the length served in the Court:
For non-justices, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman leads the number:
Here's the total number of laughters induced grouped by each appointer/President:
The same as above but normalized with the total time of served in the Court by the perspective justices:
Which case has the most laughters? With 20 occurrences, the top is U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton.
Table of top 20 cases:
|Case||Duration(s)||Number of Laughters|