In addition to exploring whether the Court’s opinions have become less readable, this Article also examines whether factors identified in other studies, such as the opinion type or the subject matter in dispute, correlate to the readability of the Court’s opinions, either in the 1930's or today, and whether that has changed over time.
Part I outlines the criticisms that have been leveled at the Supreme Court’s opinions and some of the possible reasons for the obfuscation of the opinions. Part II explores the purposes of, and intended audiences for, Supreme Court opinions and considers whether it really matters whether the Court’s opinions are readable to the American public. Part III reviews the other empirical studies that have focused on the readability of judicial opinions, and describes the Flesch-Kincaid readability analysis that was used in many of those studies. Finally, Part IV outlines the methodology for, and findings of, the study that forms the basis for this Article, comparing the readability of the Court’s opinions in the 1931-1933 terms to the modern opinions.
Stephen M. Johnson, The Changing Discourse of the Supreme Court, 30 U.N.H. L. Rev. 29 (2013).