Quantifying Neil Gorsuch’s stylistic proclivities

Here’s the abstract for Nina Varsava’s Elements of Judicial Style: A Quantitative Guide to Neil Gorsuch’s Opinion Writing, 93 NYU Law Review Online (Forthcoming 2018):

Current discussions of judicial writing in the U.S. often feature Neil Gorsuch’s opinions. Despite the fervor around Gorsuch’s style and rhetoric, there have been no attempts to systematically quantify his stylistic proclivities. This article presents results from a quantitative study of published opinions from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals during Gorsuch’s tenure there. Through analyses of extensive stylistic data, I illuminate Gorsuch’s stylistic fingerprint, revealing, in quantitative terms, how Gorsuch has achieved the stylistic effect that has impressed many observers. I also analyze Gorsuch’s stylistic drift over the past decade, revealing trends that might give us a sense of what to expect from the Justice’s writing for the Supreme Court. I find that Gorsuch’s writing style is remarkably informal and unconventional compared to his Tenth Circuit peers. Moreover, Gorsuch’s opinions have a lot in common with fiction writing. They are often suspenseful, and they contain a broad range of vocabulary but limited legal jargon and citation. Regardless of the merit of Gorsuch’s writing style, it has captivated many readers, among both the public and the legal community. This paper pinpoints, in kind and degree, some of the properties that make Gorsuch’s writing stand out—properties that have helped form his reputation as a jurist.

H/T to Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites post. In his post Bob reports the results of testing Gorsuch’s opinions against BriefCatch, PerfectIt and WordRake. — Joe

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