Although scholars have established that oral arguments play a role in Supreme Court decision making, a fundamental question remains: can oral arguments change justices' votes? Using data on the positions taken by Justices Blackmun and Powell prior to oral arguments, the authors seek to answer this question while implicitly addressing another: how effectively can attorneys persuade the Court during arguments dominated by justices attempting to persuade each other? The authors find that in a significant minority of cases, justices are persuaded to switch their vote as a result of oral argument and that high-quality attorneys play a central role in that persuasion.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: Ringsmuth thanks University of Minnesota′s Patrick and Kathy Lewis Thesis Research Grant and Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for facilitating data collection, and Johnson acknowledges assistance from the National Science Foundation: IIS-0324992.
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- Supreme Court
- oral arguments
- voting fluidity