Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Angels in the Courthouse, Part IV.

When I covered the March 28, 2005, oral argument on Anaheim's appeal of the trial court's refusal to block before trial the Angels' name change to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, I focused on the questions the justices pitched at the attorneys. (Read it here.)

This approach has been generally validated by an interesting examination of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments and resultant opinions.

"In a new study entitled 'The Illusion of Devil's Advocacy: How the Justices of the Supreme Court Foreshadow their Decisions During Oral Argument,' Sarah Shullman came up with a surprisingly simple and accurate way of predicting outcomes based on the number and tenor of oral argument questions by justices. Shullman's article, in The Journal of Appellate Practice and Process, reports on oral arguments in 10 cases she observed during the October 2002 term. As she watched, she tallied the number and tenor -- helpful or hostile -- of all the questions asked by all the justices. ... Shullman looked for correlations -- and found them. In all of the cases, the justices in aggregate asked more questions, and more hostile questions, of the party that ultimately lost the case." (T. Mauro, "Counting Questions: Adding Up High Court Outcomes",, May 12, 2005; HT: The Volokh Conspiracy.)

Based on the questions lobbed at the Court of Appeal, I discerned at least two (2) votes likely for the City. However, the substantial passage of time has called into question just what the Court can (and will) do mid-baseball season.

The appellate court has deferred ruling on the City's petition for writ while the parties participated in mediation. These efforts at settlement failed. Accordingly, the matter returns to the Fourth District for a decision. Shifting back to the court has engendered some jockeying. In late April, each side has requested the ability to file letter briefs; see here. Evidently, the Court has not yet ruled on these requests.

Stay tuned.