SCOTUS Changed Oral Arguments In Part Because Female Justices Were Interrupted, Sotomayor Says

Justice Sonia Sotomayor told an audience Wednesday that recent changes in the format of oral arguments were instituted in part after studies emerged showing that female justices on the court were interrupted more by male justices and advocates.

In this September 25, 2019, file photo Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaks during a panel discussion at the Library of Congress in Washington. © Jacquelyn Martin/AP In this September 25, 2019, file photo Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaks during a panel discussion at the Library of Congress in Washington.

Sotomayor said the studies, including one by researchers Tonja Jacoby and Dylan Schweers in 2017, have had an "enormous impact" and led to Chief Justice John Roberts being "much more sensitive" to ensuring that people were not interrupted or at least that he would play referee if needed.

She also said that it is a dynamic that exists not only on the court but in society as well.

"Most of the time women say things and they are not heard in the same way as men who might say the identical thing," she said.

Sotomayor said that she had noticed the pattern "without question" before the system was changed on the bench and sometimes she would respond in a way that she knew was probably not ideal. "I interrupt back," she said.

The comments came during a talk before New York University School of Law for a conference dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Sotomayor touched on the changing demographics of the country, the need for more professional diversity on the court, and what it has felt like to be the court's first Latina.

The court's new system at oral arguments has been most evident this term now that the justices are back in open court. So far, even in contentious cases, the justices haven't cut each other off -- something that often occurred in past terms. The traditional format has been changed to allow each justice -- once an attorney's time has expired -- to ask specific questions in order of seniority.


Video: Supreme Court justices take on critics in rare public remarks (CNN)

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