“Excuse Me, Can I Have a Turn?” Female SCOTUS Justices Heavily Interrupted

The Harvard Business Review recently released the results of an enlightening new study about the speech patterns during SCOTUS oral arguments.

According to the article, a new empirical study shows that the male justices interrupt the female justices approximately three times as often as they interrupt each other during oral arguments. 

640px-Sotomayor,_Ginsburg,_and_Kagan_10-1-2010HBR examined the transcripts of 15 years of Supreme Court oral arguments, finding that women do not have an equal opportunity to be heard on the highest court in the land. In fact, as more women join the court, the reaction of the male justices has been to increase their interruptions of the female justices. Many male justices are now interrupting female justices at double-digit rates per term, but the reverse is almost never true. In the last 12 years, during which women made up, on average, 24% of the bench, 32% of interruptions were of the female justices, but only 4% were by the female justices.

And there is a consistently gendered pattern: In 1990, with one woman on the bench (former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor), 35.7% of interruptions were directed at her; in 2002, 45.3% were directed at the two female justices (O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg); in 2015, 65.9% of all interruptions on the court were directed at the three female justices on the bench (Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan). With more women on the court, the situation only seems to be getting worse.

Not only do the fellow male justices interrupt the female justices, so too do the male advocates on the other side of the bench. Despite strict rules mandating that advocates stop talking immediately when a justice begins speaking, interruptions by male advocates account for approximately 10% of all interruptions that occur in court. In contrast, interruptions by female advocates account for approximately 0%. 

While the female justices are being interrupted at far higher rates, at least they are learning to stop using polite prefatory words. Early in their tenure, female justices tend to frame questions politely, using prefatory words such as “May I ask,” “Can I ask,” “Excuse me,” or the advocate’s name. 

HBR ultimately found that women gradually learn to set aside such politeness. All four of the female justices have reduced their tendency to use this polite phrasing. Justice Sotomayor adjusted within just a few months. Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg gradually became less and less polite over decades on the court, eventually using the polite phrases approximately one-third as much as they did initially. Justice Kagan is still learning: She uses polite language more than twice as often as the average man, although half as often as she did in 2010.

Not surprisingly, HBR did not see a similar trend with the men, because male justices rarely use these polite speech patterns, even when they first enter the court. It is the women who adapt their speech patterns to match those of the men.

If it’s this bad for arguably some of the most powerful women in the world, imagine what it’s like for other women in the legal profession. We all need to be aware of this issue and do a better job of listening.

Part Four TexasBarCLE: Practice Tools

This is the fourth part of a four part series highlighting: http://www.texasbarcle.com/CLE/Home.asp.

This post showcases the remaining practice tools that the TexasBarCLE website has to offer.

First, TexasBarCLE offers access to Casemaker & Fastcase with your bar membership. Access to both of these databases can be found on the left side of the homepage.

Upon selecting either database you will be prompted to login with your registered account. You can register using your Last Name and your Texas Bar Card Number. If you don’t have a current Texas Bar card number, you can still create an account at no cost, but your services may be limited.


TexasBarCLE also provides access to the Law Practice Management Program of the State Bar of Texas. This is a useful tool for solo practitioners or small firms who need help starting and managing their practice.


Additionally, TexasBarCLE has a tab for Texas Supreme Court Oral Arguments & Meetings. This practice tool allows you to watch the Texas Supreme Court while it is in session through live or archived videos. You can search recent oral arguments, meetings, and upcoming events.


Lastly, TexasBarCLE connects you with TYLA’s Ten Minute Mentor resource. TMM is a collection of online video presentations from lawyers in their areas of expertise. Each video is around ten minutes or less and is free.


TexasBarCLE.com is a great resource for law students and attorneys of all ages. Make sure to take advantage of all the tools your state bar provides and consider the variety of available formats when completing your MCLE credit hours.

TexasBarCLE is available through the State Bar of Texas website and at http://www.texasbarcle.com.

Part Three TexasBarCLE: Publications, Online Library, Flash CLE

This is the third part of a four part series highlighting: http://www.texasbarcle.com/CLE/Home.asp.

TexasBarCLE also offers a variety of publications that can be searched by practice area under the third tab on the left side of the home page.

Through this tab, you can select what publications are relevant to your practice, see the prices and formats of said publications, and purchase publications through TexasBarCLE.

For example, these results were generated after selecting the ethics tab to sort a search.


If you select the Texas Lawyer’s Professional Ethics text and select purchase, you will be redirected to the TexasBarBooks website. This website also offers free downloads, interviews, scholarship, updates, and videos. TexasBarBooks advertises their new publications for purchase on the right hand side of their home page.

TexasBarCLE maintains an Online Library that is searchable practice area, date, title and author. You can also view past course materials here.


TexasBarCLE.com provides Flash CLE, which is a service that provides presentations through USBs based on the number of people participating and the duration of the MCLE credits. There is a month long window to complete the class upon receipt of the order.


TexasBarCLE is available through the State Bar of Texas website and at http://www.texasbarcle.com.

Part One – TexasBarCLE: What is it?

This is the first part of a four part series featuring: http://www.texasbarcle.com/CLE/Home.asp.

TexasBarCLE is a source provided by the State Bar of Texas. It contains free online classes, practice manuals, webcasts, publications, law practice management tools, and databases.

It is accessible through the State Bar of Texas website.


After selecting the TexasBarCLE.com tab at the top of the State Bar of Texas website, you will see this as the home page.


On the right side of the home page you will see search tabs for Casemaker and Fastcase which are two resources provided by the State Bar of Texas for Legal Research.

On the top bar of the page you will see tabs for cart, log in, FAQ and Contact Us. Under the FAQ section of the home page you can find a lot of answers regarding what services this websites provides and how to access them.


These topics are further divided into specific questions below, and are linked to corresponding answers.

For example, one useful thing to know is that the login information that you use for TexasBar.com is completely separate from TexasBarCLE.com and are operated independently.

TexasBarCLE.com is open to non-attorneys. Seminars, online classes, and other products may be purchased by anyone. However, TexasBarCLE does have some areas that are only accessible by attorneys.

TexasBarCLE is available through the State Bar of Texas website and at http://www.texasbarcle.com.

Open Source Access to Scholarly Research

Legal Publishers and others are making it tough for law libraries to maintain many of their collections. For example, Since 1996 Thomson Reuters (West) has dramatically raised the prices of its print titles, both for new sets and, more significantly, for upkeep. Svengalis in his 2016 Legal Information Buyer’s Guide and Reference Manual, tracks 24 popular Thomson Reuter titles and provides a supplementation upkeep cost over a 21 year period, 1995-2015. The average price increase over the 21-year period was 779%. Svengalis also track 20 selective Lexis titles, which increased 299% over the same period. By comparison, the consumer price index rose only 58% during the same time.

With such dramatic increases by commercial publishers, open-source advocates are finding ways to combat the high cost of publications. Wikipedia defines open source access as “. . . online research outputs that are free of all restrictions on access . . . and free of many restrictions on use . . .” Two such entities include the Open Access Button and Unpaywall.

open access buttonBoth are open-source, nonprofit, and dedicated to improving free access to scholarly research. Both scour thousands of institutional repositories (like our ScHOLAR), preprint servers (i.e., SSRN), and other websites to see if an open-access copy of the article is available.

The Open Access Button (OAB) is a browser bookmarklet that is invoked when users hit articles behind a subscription-based site. The OAB will search open access sites for the piece. Both OAB and Unpaywall work similarly.

unpaywallHowever, unlike OAB, Unpaywall uses extensions, which are currently available for Chrome and Firefox. When an Unpaywall user lands on the preview page of a research article and will see either a green unlocked tab or a grey locked tab.  If the tab is green, he or she can click on that tab to view the PDF. See graphic below.

unpaywall in article