Wexler: Scalia Got the Most Laughs Again This Year

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For some years now, Professor Jay Wexler has been analyzing the transcripts of Supreme Court oral arguments and tallying up the references to "[laughter]" in response to wisecracks from the bench. He first did this in 2005, and on Monday he posted at PrawfsBlawg about the results of the analysis of the most recent term.

Just as in 2005 (and most likely every year since), he found that Justice Scalia got the most laughs (this year, 83), and Justice Thomas got the least (every year, zero). The complete rankings:

  • Scalia: 83
  • Breyer: 56
  • Roberts: 30
  • Kagan: 15
  • Kennedy:14
  • Alito: 7
  • Sotomayor: 6
  • Ginsburg: 2
  • Thomas: 0

Jay concedes that his methodology is a little subjective—specifically, Kagan is ahead of Kennedy because in one case it was unclear who should get credit and he "like[s] Justice Kagan more than Justice Kennedy"—but hey, "this shit is art, not science, folks."

As Jay also mentions in his post, he has yet another book coming out soon (tomorrow, actually), a collection of short stories and humor pieces called The Adventures of Ed Tuttle, Associate Justice (and Other Stories). He was kind enough to send me an advance copy of this book, which I have been unkind enough to not yet finish, but I can tell you it's hilarious. Well, I can't tell you that honestly about the parts I haven't read yet, but based on what I have read as well as past experience with Jay's writing (which has appeared in places like McSweeney's and Spy Magazine) it is more than speculation to say that the whole thing is almost certainly hilarious.

The illustrations, however, suck. Like the rest of us, Jay was allotted a finite amount of talent, and in his case the excess aptitude for the written word seems to have been taken almost entirely from the visual-art department. But that is also funny, or at least it is when he tries to draw Justice Alito with a rabbit or something on his shoulder.

Of the items I've read so far, I loved "Black and White Zoo," about a guy who dreams of opening a zoo for only black-and-white animals and has very specific rules for what can and cannot be in his zoo. The fact that this is the very first piece in the collection should not be taken to mean that it is the only one that I have finished. It isn't. It's just very funny. Also great was "Confirmation Hearing of Sonia Sotomayor, If That Hearing Had Been Held in Front of the 1977 Kansas City Royals Instead of the Senate Judiciary Committee." Not only was that funny and the good kind of bizarre, it was on page 81, almost exactly at the midpoint of the book, so I didn't just now pick the thing up.

I just leafed through the second half and that looks pretty good too.

Why don't you buy it when it comes out tomorrow and you can decide for yourself, and also consider his books The Odd Clauses and Holy Hullaballoos, which are more factual and have some serious law-professor things to say but are also entertaining and funny. (I finished both of those.)