Learning to Speak Up: Acclimation Effects and Supreme Court Oral Argument

Rachael Houston, Siyu Li, Timothy R. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A long line of literature examines acclimation effects for newly confirmed U.S. Supreme Court justices. However, most of these analyses focus only on how new justices vote or write opinions. Here, we examine how they act during the one public aspect of the Court’s decision-making process—its oral arguments on the merits. In so doing, we seek to determine whether new justices speak, and interrupt their colleagues, less often than do their more senior colleagues. Using data on justices’ speaking turns and interruptions during all orally argued cases from the 1955 to 2018 terms, we find an acclimation effect exists whereby new justices are significantly less inclined to speak and interrupt their more senior colleagues. Our models also suggest gender and judicial ideology influence the extent to which new justices exhibit such effects during oral argument proceedings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJustice System Journal
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Supreme Court oral argument
  • acclimation effects
  • decision making

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