“Excuse me –” Race and Intersectionality of Interruptions at the U.S. Supreme Court

20 February 2024, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Racial and gender bias pervade American political institutions, and the Supreme Court is no exception. Women lawyers are interrupted more and allowed to speak for less time than their male colleagues. We expect that stereotypes will also lead to biased treatment of attorneys of color, and will have the greatest impact on women attorneys of color due to their intersectional identity. In doing so, we introduce a refined measure of interruptions that more precisely captures oral argument dynamics. Using a database of the race of members of the Supreme Court bar and transcripts of all oral arguments held from October Terms 2009 – 2018, we find that women attorneys of color receive harsher treatment by the justices during oral arguments than their peers. We also find that when the case involves racial issues, attorneys of color are interrupted less than their white counterparts.


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