U.S. Supreme Court

Which justices' opinions are least friendly? Scalia isn't the most negative, study says

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Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia may be known for his zingers, but his opinions are more “friendly” than four other current justices on the Supreme Court, according to a new study of about 7,000 positive and negative words used in opinions.

The study, which examined opinions through 2008, found Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. had the least friendly opinions among current justices included in the study, according to University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner, writing at ericposner.com.

The study (available here) developed a “friendliness score” based on the percentage of negative words by each justice, subtracted from the percentage of positive words. Negative words include “two-faced,” “admonish” and “problematic.” Positive words include “adventurous” and “pre-eminent.”

The unfriendliest justice was Thomas Johnson. A former Maryland governor, he joined the court in 1792, served just one term before resigning, and wrote just one opinion, according to the Oyez Project.

The next most unfriendly justice was Alito, followed by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy. Scalia was tenth least friendly of current and former justices. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fell more in the middle range. Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor were not included in the study.

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