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Sarcasm at SCOTUS

Adam Liptak has this article at the NYT.  He reports on research on sarcasm in Supreme Court opinions by Professor Richard Hasen at UC Irvine, who concludes that Justice Scalia is the most frequently sarcastic of the justices.

When I first read the blurb on this story in my NYT alert email, my first thought was that the research would qualify for the Well, Duh Award for Research Confirming the Obvious.  After reading the article and the description of Prof. Hasen's methodology, though, I conclude that the more appropriate citation is the Even A Stopped Clock Is Right Twice A Day Award for research with incredibly bad methodology that happens to hit the correct answer.
Liptak reports,

Professor Hasen's methodology is clever but not airtight. He considered assessments of Supreme Court opinions in law review articles from 1986, when Justice Scalia joined the court, through the end of 2013.

There were 134 opinions described as sarcastic or caustic, and Justice Scalia wrote 75 of them, more than all the other justices combined. The index took that number and divided it by the number of years the justice has served.

Several methodological objections come to mind. One is that law professors tend to be liberal and so may be more apt to criticize Justice Scalia, a conservative.
May be?  The sun might have risen in the east this morning.  Can anyone familiar with the ideologically skewed state of law school faculties doubt for a minute that equally sarcastic comments in opinions are more likely to be described in law reviews as "sarcastic" or "caustic" if written by conservatives and "scathing" or "hard-hitting" if written by liberals?

Seriously, folks, if I intentionally set out to create a biased index about anything having to do with the Supreme Court, I could hardly do better than to base it on assessments in law reviews.

Does the index have a self-check?  "But the rest of the index is about equally divided between liberal and conservative justices."  That result does not demonstrate that the index is neutral.  It is quite possible that, other than Justice Scalia, the conservative justices tend to be less sarcastic overall and the bias of the index masks an actual skew in that direction.

But who am I to criticize?  The observant reader may have noticed that I am not entirely immune to sarcasm myself.

Update:  Prof. Hasen has his own post at Election Law Blog with a graph of his index and a link to the full article at SSRN.  He quotes the abstract which says, "Now your first reaction to this claim [regarding Justice Scalia], if you are a (sarcastic) Supreme Court aficionado, is probably: 'Well, duh!'"  Yup.  Honestly, I had not seen that before writing the original post.  Then he says, "And your second reaction is likely: Oh really? Well how can you prove that?"  Nope.  Wouldn't have thought it needed proving.

The graph shows that, aside from Justice Scalia, the relative rankings of the justices could be affected by academic bias in law reviews.  Is Justice Alito really second?  I don't doubt that he is sarcastic more often than, say, Justice Ginsburg, who is near the far end of the scale, but does he really warrant a higher rating than Justice Kagan, who is listed fourth?  Within this range, I think it highly likely that academic bias plays a role.

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