Even if there were an equal number of male and female justices on the Supreme Court, a new study suggests the sexes wouldn't have an equal voice. Researchers at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law say female justices simply "do not have an equal opportunity to be heard" as they've been interrupted three times more often than male justices over the last 12 years, despite speaking less often. During the 2015 term, a female justice interrupted a male colleague seven times at most, per SCOTUSblog. But female justices were interrupted up to 15 times by a single male colleague. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was interrupted 15 times by Justice Anthony Kennedy, 14 times by Justice Samuel Alito, and 12 times by Chief Justice John Roberts, the study says.
Roberts, Alito, and Kennedy also interrupted Justice Elena Kagan at least 10 times each, while Kennedy interrupted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 11 times, the researchers say. Though Kagan and Sotomayor were interrupted more often than Ginsburg, the researchers add "gender is approximately 30 times more influential than seniority." Not only do the interruptions show a lack of respect, the researchers argue, but they could have deeper implications since "oral arguments shape case outcomes," allowing justices to form opinions and persuade colleagues. The study shows that female justices "gradually learn to set aside such politeness," and develop a sharper tone over time. Researchers say awareness could help solve the issue. But over at Jezebel, they think the real solution "is for men to learn to stop being so in love with the sounds of their own voices." (Justices also encounter racism.)