Sotomayor says recent changes were made because male justices interrupted female colleagues
Justice Sonia Sotomayor told an audience Wednesday that changes in oral arguments were instated following studies that showed female court justices were interrupted by male justices and advocates, CNN Politics reported.
The new format gives each justice in order of seniority, starting with the chief justice, an opportunity to question counsel following their arguments, in contrast to more a more free flowing format in place before the Supreme Court began remote hearings for the pandemic.
Following a series of studies showing how female justices were being talked over, Chief Justice John Roberts became “much more sensitive” to ensuring that women were not interrupted and would sometimes step in, Sotomayor said.
“Most of the time women say things and they are not heard in the same way as men who might say the identical thing,” Sotomayor noted, adding that she “without question” noted the same phenomenon on the court.
She told the audience at New York University’s School of Law that in response to those instances, “I interrupt back.”
CNN noted that there have been less interruptions, even during contentious cases, since the Supreme Court has returned to in-person arguments under the new guidance.
Another significant change is that Justice Clarence Thomas, who for years rarely asked questions from the bench, has now become a frequent voice during hearings.
The discussion arose while Sotomayor was speaking at a diversity and inclusion conference, CNN reported. Sotomayor mentioned the changing demographics of the U.S. and her road to becoming the first Latina on the Supreme Court.
“If you are a person of color, you have to work harder than everybody else to succeed. It’s the nature of — the competitive nature of our society, where you have to prove yourself every day,” she said.