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Synopsis

While legal scholars, psychologists, and political scientists commonly voice their skepticism over the influence oral arguments have on the Court’s voting pattern, this book offers a contrarian position focused on close scrutiny of the justices’ communication within oral arguments. Malphurs examines the rhetoric, discourse, and subsequent decision-making within the oral arguments for significant Supreme Court cases, visiting their potential power and danger and revealing the rich dynamic nature of the justices’ interactions among themselves and the advocates. In addition to offering advancements in scholars’ understanding of oral arguments, this study introduces Sensemaking as an alternative to rational decision-making in Supreme Court arguments, suggesting a new model of judicial decision-making to account for the communication within oral arguments that underscores a glaring irony surrounding the bulk of related research—the willingness of scholars to criticize oral arguments but their unwillingness to study this communication. With the growing accessibility of the Court’s oral arguments and the inevitable introduction of television cameras in the courtroom, this book offers new theoretical and methodological perspectives at a time when scholars across the fields of communication, law, psychology, and political science will direct even greater attention and scrutiny toward the Supreme Court.

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