Judges’ use of humor as a social corrective

To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.


Although judging is serious business, the occasional humorous opinion is a longstanding tradition among both British and American judges. In the United States, humorous judicial opinions are frequently used by newspapers as filler articles, and numerous collections appear in books and on Internet websites, to the apparent delight of popular and professional audiences alike. However, despite a widespread absence of public disapprobation, some commentators have criticized judicial humor as inappropriate, arguing that a judge's role is not to entertain, and that an opinion that ridicules a litigant or his case violates standards of judicial decorum and impartiality. This article challenges the view that a judge's use of humor is necessarily injudicious, and argues that judges use humor as a social corrective to sanction wrongdoers and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. Through an analysis of actual judicial opinions, I demonstrate how this is achieved.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... This largely critical view of judicial humour appeared to be the dominant one until recently, perhaps thanks to the "emotional turn" in research and theory of the judiciary, which argues for revising the notion of judicial decorum being necessarily dispassionate and a-emotional (Bandes 1999;Lange 2002;Maroney 2011). Hobbs (2007a) argues that instead of treating judicial humour as an ornamental activity that endangers the impartiality of the judge and risks ridiculing the lay-people in the case, it can be analysed as a useful courtroom resource. Judges may use humour instrumentally "in the form of parody, ridicule and satire … to sanction counsel and/or litigants who take flatly unsupportable positions, inflicting punishment on the offenders and deterring similar conduct" (p. ...
... But as other research notes, humour can be linked to status and power in more complex and subtle ways, for example by superiors who seek to sustain authority while remaining collegial, and by subordinates to contest hierarchies (Holmes 2000). Humour can also be used carefully by people in superior positions-such as judges-to negotiate and momentarily bracket social hierarchies and to relieve tensions (Hobbs 2007a;Malphurs 2010;Roach Anleu et al. 2014). Through humour, power and status may be negotiated, but both power and status will generally determine who jokes with whom and about what (Fine and Soucey 2005). ...
... Judges may use humour deliberately to softly reprove norm-breaking (Hobbs 2007a). In the following episode, one of the three defendants (appearing together) in a large and long fraud trial participates on video link, and is seen on two large screens in the courtroom. ...
This chapter analyses humour from an emotion sociological perspective, linking humour to power, status, and group solidarity. It draws from about 300 observed trials and interviews with 43 judges and 41 prosecutors from four Swedish district courts. Humour is sometimes skilfully used as a strategy to ease tension, relieve boredom or to reprimand. It is initiated/allowed by the judge, but high-status lawyers or prosecutors may take the initiative. Judges may use humour to uphold an effective and smooth procedure, attenuating their own power. It is generally unacceptable to laugh at the expense of lay- (low-power) people present in court. Inter-professional humour takes place in intermissions during the hearings, while trials running over several days may include the defendants in the semi-backstage inter-professional joking. Most in-court humorous incidents are unintended, where laughter is suppressed or released depending on the judge. Humour has different functions and expressions frontstage (in court) and backstage (office, lunch room). Observation of both arenas reveal its shame-management function in inter-professional relations. While the judges’ backstage area teems with jokes about embarrassing procedural mistakes, prosecutors’ backstage humour more often deals with the foulness and tragedy of criminals and crimes.
... Humour already exists in forensic settings, though not as utilised as it could be. Hobbs (2007), reviews the way that humour is used as a "social corrective" with judges in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Whilst some view humour as "inappropriate" for the courtroom, Hobbs (2007), takes the perspective that it is beneficial. ...
... Hobbs (2007), reviews the way that humour is used as a "social corrective" with judges in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Whilst some view humour as "inappropriate" for the courtroom, Hobbs (2007), takes the perspective that it is beneficial. In this instance, humour is used to mock the offender and by extension, detract others from committing similar offenses. ...
The area of investigative interviewing was revolutionised with the creation of the cognitive interview, which added psychological aspects to the basic interview conducted by the police at the time. The cognitive interview has undergone many evolutions since then, such as the enhanced cognitive interview and the PEACE interview. Humour was considered, due to its pro-social properties, such as: emotion regulation, increasing attention and engagement. This study aimed to investigate whether humour could be added to cognitive interviews, without hindering the established techniques, and potentially improving it. Using a virtual cognitive interview, participants were randomly allocated into three conditions: humorous cognitive interview (HCI), standard cognitive interview (SCI), and control standard interview (CSI). All watched the same 5-minute movie clip. The amount of correct information recalled, and total number of answers given were recorded. Results indicated that humour does not negatively affect the cognitive interview process. The implications of adding humour to cognitive interviews to assist with rapport-building and the humanitarian approach to interviewing are discussed, as well as gathering information from vulnerable populations.
... Inspired by the organizational humor model (Romero & Cruthirds, 2006) and a large meta-analysis on the consequences of workplace humor (Mesmer-Magnus et al., 2012), job satisfaction, communication, stress, creativity, and perceptions of leader power will be explored. The current study takes an exploratory approach, and while no causal effects can be assumed, results are expected to provide insight into the efficacy of humor as an organizational communication method, and inspire practical recommendations for workplace humor use (Hobbs, 2007;Huo, Lam, & Chen, 2012;Isaksen & Akkermans, 2011). ...
... Based on the current findings and those of Leist and Müller (2013), it is recommended that for the most preferential outcomes, managers should be encouraged to use more positive humor types than negative humor types. Contradicting previous recommendations, this suggests that use of aggressive humor is not too problematic if accompanied with affiliative humor, and is concurrent with suggestions that aggressive humor use may have positive functions when used appropriately (Hobbs, 2007). Recommendations based upon the current study are made cautiously, however, as cause could not be attributed, and thus work to replicate and build upon the current study is encouraged to validate conclusions and recommendations. ...
Full-text available
The current study is the first to explore the relationships between managerial humor and workplace facets using cluster analysis. Two-hundred and two employed adults rated their managers’ humor and workplace facets online. K-means cluster analyses identified three managerial humor clusters, mostly replicating those found in the existing literature. A significant pattern of differences in stress, communication, creativity, perceptions of leader power, and job satisfaction were found between the clusters. Findings suggest negative humor use is most likely to be damaging to organizations when not used alongside positive humor types, and it is not merely the frequency with which a manager uses an individual humor type, but the holistic view of their humor, which is of importance in gauging valence of organizational facets. Using cluster analysis was beneficial in challenging assumptions from the existing literature, further contextualizing our understanding of humor and reinforcing the importance of humor use in the workplace.
... Thus, many scholars have realized that court judgments representing judicial discourses would be great resources to manifest knowledge of both the institutional facts and social facts/practices: for example, Li, Cheng, and Cheng (2016) found that judges would balance between freedom of speech and protection of reputation in defamation cases; Cheng and Cheng (2014) noted that judges would use different orientations and values to express their beliefs via epistemic modality; Hobbs (2011) argued that the United States Supreme Court would (mis)use dictionary to decide cases and inappropriately use of analogical reasoning. Besides, Hobbs (2007) also noticed that judges would use humor as social corrective; Charnock (2009) found that different speech acts have been employed in overruling cases; similarly, Kurzon (2001) found that English and American judges used different strategies of politeness. Though different scholars utilized different theoretical frames, methods, data to carry out their studies, they agreed that (1) court judgments are interactionally dialogic (e.g. ...
Full-text available
Issues concerning cyber asset in cyberspace have intrigued the legislators, the judicial practitioners, the netizens, and even the onlookers in real world; simultaneously, academia is discussing the disputes aroused by this intangible object. However, various studies in the past refined the discussions in domains of law but the refinement fails to clarify the cyber-asset issues and to resolve the disputes. Therefore, a better understanding of what “cyber asset” is can be achieved by exploring cyber asset in the judicial discourses from a socio-semiotic perspective. In this study, judicial discourses are tantamount to the semiotic resource. Then, incorporating in a generic model of judicial discourses, we examine (1) how cyber asset as a sign has been framed by agents of the judicial institution of the People’s Republic of China; (2) how the judicial institution justified their framing; and (3) whether any temporal change in the semiotic system of cyber asset took place. Furthermore, by applying the five questions introduced by Van Leeuwen, we examine why the quandaries of cyber asset are aroused. In conclusion, we propose that the cyber-asset disputes can hardly be resolved unless joint efforts are made by the legislature and the judiciary of the People’s Republic of China.
... There is no lack of criticism of using humor such as satire, parody, mockery, and verse, and judicial humor is sometimes related to judge's carving recognition of their wit and gaining notoriety and "an enfant terrible that, like an undisciplined child, amuses its inordinately tolerant judicial 'parents' at the expense and dismay of the rest of society" (Rudolph 1989: 178). Of course, judicial humor is also supported as a social corrective (Hobbs 2007) or a way to crystallizing a point, putting it in context, and breathing life into a set of facts that that law has formalized, and thus making an opinion much easier to read and understand (Jordan 1987: 700-701). However, if such a humorous style is presented in a court judgment, the task of a translator is to be loyal to such a style rather than to be involved in the debate. ...
Full-text available
As Hong Kong is the only common law jurisdiction operating in Chinese, alongside English, writing a common law judgment in Chinese is like exploring an uncharted domain in legal discourse. Apart from those judgments originally written in Chinese, Chinese judgments have also been prepared by way of translation from English. Besides, there are also English translations of Chinese judgments of jurisprudential value. Judgments in Hong Kong therefore present an interesting case for study both from a legal point of view and from the perspective of discourse analysis. As Chinese judgments in Hong Kong to a large extent mirror images of their English counterparts, they provide us with insights into how judicial thinking embodied in one language is carried over to another. As the translation of court judgments can serve as a clue to the understanding of how judicial thinking is transferred and reflected in another language, this study looks into some of the fundamental problems of legal translation in general and translation of court judgments in particular, showing how the sociosemiotic approach can shed light on those problems.
... Prominently, Frank (1973) drew attention to the leeway judges have in processes such as gathering and directing the presentation of evidence and assigning greater weight to the testimony of credible witnesses versus less credible ones. Although there is extensive research on different qualities that might be linked with legal wisdom, such as impartiality (e.g., Darcy, 2004), humor (e.g., Hobbs, 2007), and transparency (McKeown, 2011), as well as research on wisdom in decision making outside of a legal context (e.g., Melé, 2010;Sternberg, 1998), the question of legal wisdom itself remains largely unexplored. ...
Full-text available
Surprisingly little research exists on the role of wisdom within legal decision making. To shed light on this topic, we interviewed 11 U.S. judges who were nominated by their peers for their legal wisdom. They were asked to describe their experience of wise legal decision making and the qualities and processes they felt characterize wise judges. Their interviews were subjected to a grounded theory analysis to develop an understanding of the psychological processes and interpersonal performances that constitute wise legal decision making. Among other findings, results identified attitudes in judges that were thought to lead to better decisions, such as an attitude of curiosity. They identified courtroom management styles that were characterized by magnanimity and compassion as instilling public faith in the system, in contrast to a distant or overly adversarial tone. They tended to agree that, when possible and within the confines of the law, rulings oriented toward rehabilitation were preferable to punitive ones. As well, wise judges described the ways they managed personal challenges arising from value conflicts or ambiguous evidence when making decisions. The article provides clarity on the meanings of the term wisdom within the judicial profession and its construction within the alternative discourses of retributive and procedural justice.
... Norrick 1993; Hay 2000; Holmes and Marra 2002; Everts 2003; Antonopoulou and Sifianou 2003; Fine and de Saucey 2005, Lampert and Ervin- Tripp 2006; Coates 2007), humour in formal contexts, such as workplace, is under investigation (e.g. Yarwood 2001; Holmes and Marra 2006; Holmes 2002, 2006; Bonaiuto et al. 2003; Hobbs 2007ab; Plester 2007; Romero et al. 2007; Bippus 2007, Mik-Meyer 2007). Furthermore, researchers examine cross-cultural differences and similarities of humour forms and their application (e.g. ...
Full-text available
Humor in political communication can risk trivializing important issues or otherwise backfire. Still, comedy’s potential rhetorical power ensures its frequent use as a communication and persuasion strategy. This is true even in the Supreme Court of the United States, where oral-argument humor offers a window on thinking and communication strategies as justices deliberate and weigh contending arguments. Judicial humor at the Court may be likelier when participants are cognitively fresh, or when the case at issue focuses less on a specific person’s life or liberty. Reviewing outbursts of laughter in the Court’s oral arguments between the seating of Justice Kagan and the death of Justice Scalia confirms that cases argued later in the day and relating to individuals’ civil rights see less humor. Within cases, humor arises less frequently during the argument that prevails in the Court’s eventual judgment.
This article reports a corpus-aided analysis of stance adverbs within published judicial opinions from the 12 geographically-apportioned districts of the United States (US) Federal Courts of Appeals. The study first analyzes stance adverbs previously investigated in US Supreme Court decisions in order to more comprehensively explore these interactional features across multiple levels of the judicial system. Following this initial analysis, the study then examines variation in the use of stance adverbs between majority and dissenting opinions in Courts of Appeals opinions to identify salient similarities and differences in frequency and function in the two opinion types. The initial analysis reveals divergence in stance adverb use between the Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court and between legal writing and other registers, indicating the prevalence and importance of stance adverbs within legal writing. Additionally, the study notes variation in stance adverbs between majority and dissenting opinions. This article details the variation of stance adverbs across these aforementioned contexts, discusses how the variation noted in the corpus analysis at times conflicts with the advice of legal writing style guides, and offers pedagogical implications of these findings for English for Legal Purposes instruction.
Conventional understandings of the judicial role emphasise impersonality, leaving little space for humour. However, the courtroom is a workplace where different professions come together, each highly dependent on the other. Solicitors, barristers and police prosecutors (in lower courts) provide information or undertake tasks necessary for judicial decision-making. Although judicial officers in both higher and lower courts have considerable formal legal authority, their direct supervisory power over the out-of-court work of these other professionals is limited. This observational study of Australian lower courts finds that one strategy magistrates adopt to bridge this gap is humour. A magistrate’s practical use of humour can help judicial officers meet organisational challenges such as time management, while the normative use of humour delineates inter-professional roles and obligations.
Full-text available
It is hard to imagine a text more serious than Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (1971). It is what its title says, a set of guidelines for those aspiring to become organizers of societal change – revolutionaries of some kind, the 'realistic' kind. The guidelines are 'pragmatic' in its everyday sense, hence entirely down-to-earth. Yet, humor comes in. This paper explores one of Alinsky's educational stories which clearly lacks overall humorous intent but still has the potential of scoring humorous effects. An analysis of the example is used to address the relationship between humor and seriousness. At the same time it illustrates how systematic attention to the calibration of explicit and implicit levels of meaning generation can be used in the investigation of humor. Some additional remarks are made about how the example relates to some of the common notions in theories of humor.
Drawing upon a corpus of five high-profile contemporary Anglo-American trials, this study explores and elucidates, qualitatively and quantitatively, the process of evaluative stancetaking in courtroom opening statements. In particular, the study examines such stance resources as self-mention, hedges, boosters, and attitude markers. The findings reveal that evaluative stance expressions constitute an integral part of the opening statements of both the prosecution and defense lawyers, exhibiting similar frequency patterns. Of these resources, devices that signal commitment or lack thereof (i. e., boosters and hedges) appear to occur frequently and outnumber explicit attitude markers, which occur least frequently. It is through these devices that lawyers are able to subtly bypass the legal constraints that prohibit explicit display of personal opinions and comments on the evidence.
Although scholars in the fields of sociolinguistics and discourse analysis have written extensively about courtroom questions over the past thirty years, few studies have examined the questions that judges pose to lawyers; instead, the study of questions in legal discourse has focused on lawyers’ questioning of witnesses. Yet judges’ questioning of lawyers is both ubiquitous and consequential, for through these questions judges seek lawyers’ input, not only in the framing of the issues and the furnishing of authority, but also in formulating the interpretations by which they apply the law to the specific facts and issues that are before them. This chapter describes four questioning strategies that judges use to engage lawyers in interactive interpretation of the issues presented: taking candidate positions on the facts or law; displaying confidence or doubt in their own interpretations; posing “exam” questions that engage lawyers in Socratic dialogue; and using humor or displays of virtuosity to challenge lawyers’ interpretations. Through the analysis of examples of judges’ questioning of lawyers in trial and appellate courts, I demonstrate how judges use these strategies to both clarify and challenge lawyers’ positions, and to resolve questions relating to those positions prior to making their rulings.
We begin by discussing legal narratives, and overall narrative plausibility. We consider approaches from the New Evidence scholarship, discuss background generalisations, as well as the impact of modes of communication (the pragmatics of the delivery in court of a legal narrative), and then warn about pitfalls to avoid, in consideration of what controversy within legal scholarship implies about the need for the modelling of legal narratives with artificial intelligence techniques to meet with approval from legal scholars. We then undertake a long overview (in over twenty subsections) of artificial intelligence approaches to narratives. Historically, a legal context for narratives was involved in tools such as BORIS and STARE. Among the other things, we consider the JAMA model, and then conclude the overview with a project from quarters different from those traditionally associated with story-processing in the artificial intelligence research community: namely, Löwe, Pacuit and Saraf’s application of mathematical logic to crime stories. We then explain episodic formulae, and develop an example: the controversy concerning a collection of stuffed birds amid allegations that items were stolen and restuffed. We finally consider Bex’s approach to combining stories and arguments in sense-making software for crime investigation, and then Bex and Bench-Capon’s undertaken project concerning persuasion stories vs. arguments.
Full-text available
This paper examines verbal humor in courtroom interaction in Malaysia. The adversarial courtroom is normally described as a site of struggle as disputes are presented and argued, while frames of reality are built and challenged. Social actors construct, deconstruct and reconstruct narratives and at the same time, through strategic linguistic devices attempt to maintain their profesional identities. Humor in the courtroom thus seems rather incongruous as the adversarial courtroom is usually characterized by multi-party discursive acts with both opposing parties having the aim of winning the case. The atmosphere is typically solemn and tense as lawyers ask and demand answers from witnesses, who are usually baffled by the rigors of the institutional talk. Despite this, laughter and humor are present at certain times and during certain occasions. The question is when is humor appropriate in a context of power asymmetry and contestations? Further, can humor in the Malaysia multi-cultural context reveal other strategies that are culturally oriented?
The use of humour by judicial officers is subject to formal and informal regulation. Inappropriate judicial humour may undermine core judicial values of impartiality and neutrality, possibly leading to a loss of public confidence and legitimacy. Appropriate judicial humour can have a valuable role in the courtroom. Data from interviews with judicial officers and court observation studies demonstrate that judicial humour is a reality in the Australian courtroom and can be used positively. These empirical research findings clarify aspects of the form, nature and circumstances of appropriate judicial humour and its positive functions.
Full-text available
There exist bibliographies from the 1990s of humour studies, in book form or posted online. What this essay attempts to do is to consider a large sample of the bibliography of the domain, and assess the spread among a vast range of journals from several disciplines. Being a sample, our own bibliography is not exhaustive, but it nevertheless contains much material that had not come to the attention of earlier bibliographers. It is up to date to 2011, and it is limited to publications in journals only. Moreover, such publications are excluded that appeared in any of the journals specialised solely in humour studies. The distillation in the form of a list of journals organised chronologically is interesting. It shows that humour studies are a big domain, and one that is far-flung; it also suggests that mutual visibility in this discipline is limited. Articles about humour turn out in surprising outlets, such as a journal of children dentistry, or journals in the history of pharmacy (political cartoons with an apothecary or medical theme have been historically frequent), or Fertility and Sterility, or Public Administration Review, or a journal of parliamentary history, or a law journal. This essay is a discursive, qualitative, sampling probe into the seawide literature of the sector, rather than quantitative study as would be expected in bibliometrics. Arguably the present format subserves the goal of conveying a good idea of the size and variety of the domain.
Previous studies have revealed the importance of studying spoken professional–client/outsider interaction, especially the Q&A session, in various professional settings. However, most of the studies are located in non-religious professional settings. This article presents research in a particular religious professional setting, daee/propagator of Islam–client/outsider interaction. The research aims to study the daees’ spoken discourse when interacting face to face with their clients/the outsiders. This particular article focuses on the analysis and discussion of the daees/propagators of Islam’s spoken discourse strategies when interacting with non-Muslim individuals/potential converts who seek conversion to Islam in a communicative event called the Conversion to Islam Ceremony at a da’wah/Islamic propagation center in Malaysia. Ethnographic discourse analysis is employed to examine the daees/propagators of Islam’s spoken discourse strategies in managing and maintaining involvement when interacting with their client during the Q&A session of the event. The analysis reveals that the daees, in order to propagate Islam, engage politeness strategies, topic management strategies, code-switching and humor.
Ridicule can be used in order to create concurrence as well as to en-hance antagonism. This paper deals with ridicule that is used by a critic when he is responding to a standpoint or to a reason advanced in support of a standpoint. Ridicule profits from humor's good repu-tation, and correctly so, even when it is used in argumentative contexts. However, ridicule can be harmful to a discussion. This paper will deal with ridicule from the perspective of strategic maneuvering between the individual rhetorical objec-tive of effecting persuasion and the shared dialectical objective of resolving the dispute on its merits. In what ways can ridicule be used in strategic maneuvering and under what conditions are these uses dialectically sound? Résumé: La dérision peut s'employer pour provoquer l'accord aussi bien que le désaccord. Dans cet article on traite de la dérision employée pour critiquer une conclusion ou ses raisons. La dérision profite de la bonne réputation de l'humour, même dans des contextes argumentatifs. Toutefois, elle peut nuire à la discussion. On examine la dérision à partir de la perspective de la manoeuvre stratégique entre le but rhétorique de persuader et le but dialectique partagé de résoudre le désaccord. De quelles façons est-ce que l'acte de ridiculiser peut s'em-ployer dans des manoeuvres stratégiques et dans quelles situations est-il dia-lectiquement justifié.
Full-text available
Legal humor is a topic of perennial appeal, and has long been a prolific source of books, articles, and scholarly commentaries which are avidly con- sumed by popular and professional audiences alike. However, although a number of scholars have analyzed the use of humor in judicial opinions, there is no comparable body of scholarly examinations of lawyers' use of humor in their role as legal advocates. This omission is significant, because in the American legal system, humor and wordplay serve as highly-valued evidence of forensic skill which is deemed appropriate for display both with- in and outside of the courtroom. Accordingly, this paper attempts to fill the gap in the existing literature by examining attorneys' use of humor as per- suasive advocacy in two widely divergent settings, informal court-mandated mediation and oral argument before the United States Supreme Court. In these data, the attorneys use humor aggressively to ridicule the plaintis' claims, depicting them as laughable and unworthy of serious consideration, while placing themselves at the center of a comic performance which allows them to display their linguistic skills. These data thus demonstrate that hu- mor can be a potent weapon in an attorney's arsenal.
Full-text available
Sociolinguistic research suggests that women are more likely than men to use politeness strategies in their speech. Researchers have reported that women pay more compliments than men, that women in talk with same-sex peers use a large number of positive-politeness strategies while men in analogous situations do not, and that women are more likely to apologize, soften criticism or express thanks than men. However, most studies of gender variations in politeness have not examined the relationship between situation and language use. In this data drawn from voice mail messages in a legal setting, male speakers’ use of politeness markers was roughly equal to that of women's. Moreover, positive politeness strategies were used almost exclusively by male speakers, and only by attorneys, and the two speakers who used the greatest number of politeness markers in individual messages were both men. Factors which may play a role in explaining these findings include the one-sided nature of voice mail communications and the fact that the data were generated in a legal setting and that seven of the eleven speakers were attorneys.
Full-text available
This article examines the persuasive work that can be accomplished by a lawyer during expert medical cross-examination, and demonstrates how a series of prosodic questions can become a vehicle for circumventing institutional constraints which police the boundary between evidence and interpretation. By asking leading questions that project their expected answers, framing the questions as statements of fact that invite the witness' agreement, and building propositions step by step, the lawyer is able to simulate a monologue and control the trajectory of the talk. As medical experts will reliably agree to correct statements of decontextualized medical principles, without attempting to apply the principles to the facts of the case, the lawyer using prosodic questions which contain embedded statements of these principles can present the jury—which is predisposed to hear his questions as an attack on the witness' testimony—with a point-by-point narrative critique and counterversion of the witness' conclusions, and can obtain the witness' agreement with this critique and counterversion. The lawyer thus achieves a narrative transformation of the evidence in which benign explanations are substituted for the witness' damaging conclusions through the production of a multilevel discourse that controls what both the witness and the jurors hear.
Full-text available
Although lawyers' courtroom language has been the subject of sociolinguistic research, most of this research has focused on the questioning of witnesses; thus few studies have examined the processes by which lawyers' interpretations of the evidence are presented to the jury. This article illustrates lawyers' use of impression management in their opening statements and closing arguments to construct a shared identity with jurors, in order to persuade them to affiliate with the lawyer's point of view. Through the analysis of a segment of a prosecutor's rebuttal argument in a criminal trial, this article demonstrates how a Black attorney addressing a predominantly Black jury uses the stylistic and rhetorical dimensions of African American vernacular English (AAVE) to construct this shared identity.
Full-text available
American law is not a singlediscourse, but is the product of diverse andoften discordant voices; nowhere is this moreapparent than during the cross-examination ofparties and witnesses at trial. The sequentialorganization of witness examinations has drawn the attention of conversation analysts,who have examined the effects of theturn-taking system governing suchexaminations on the organization of theinteraction that occurs. This article appliesthe theoretical framework thus developed to theanalysis of an attorney's management of expertcross-examination in a medicalmalpractice case. The article demonstratesthat, rather than simply attempting todiscredit an opposing witness' testimony, thecross-examining attorney actively exploits thequestion-answer sequence by using it as aplatform for the construction of a competingand contrasting version of the facts, and thatthis construction occurs simultaneously withthe deconstruction of the witness' directtestimony. It is shown that, by posingstrategic questions, challenging evasiveanswers, building selected descriptions, andtransforming hypothesis into fact, thecross-examining attorney seeks to substitutehis reanalysis for the witness' testimony.
Preface 2004 1. Introduction 2. Conversational Style: Theoretical Background 3. The Participants in Thanksgiving Dinner 4. Linguistics Devices in Conversational Style 5. Narrative Strategies 6. Irony and Joking 7. Summary of Style Features 8. The Study of Coherence in Discourse 9. Coda: Taking the Concepts into the Present Appendix 1: Key to Transcription Conventions Appendix 2: Steps in Analyzing Conversation Appendix 3: Participants in Thanksgiving Dinner Appendix 4: Flow of Topics in Thanksgiving Conversation REFERENCES AUTHOR INDEX SUBJECT INDEX
The argumentation at work in scientific discourse is considered to be the fortress of seriousness, and yet tones of derision and the playful comic are manifested in the theoretical works of French pragmatist linguists. Their work uses both an analysis of comic stories promoted to the rank of illustration and a comic writing style in its own rhetoric. This research will try to answer the following questions: what is there in common between the imaginative, carefree, impertinent discourse of humor and the linguistics of utterances (pragmatics)? Is humor for these researchers a simple technique of attractive demonstration, or does it satisfy a need connected with a new conception of the deontology of the linguist?.
This article examines a questioning strategy in trial crossexamination designed to control an evasive witness, and how that control functions through the interactive contours of verbal and visual conduct to index identity, construct multidimensional forms of participation and project intertextual relations. In the process of nailing down an answer, attorney and witness manipulate linguistic ideologies and project participations of power to calibrate the epistemological criteria for determining the legitimacy of legal realities. I demonstrate how indexical iconicities of trial dialogic form emerge as a contested ritual of truth in the situated details of multimodal discursive practices.
Consider a message of a very simple kind, such as, "The cat is on the mat. " That message contains, as has been emphasized here, many other things besides the piece of information which may be defined as the "Yes" or "No" answer to the question which would be created by inverting the same words and adding an interrogation mark. It contains a series of things of which one set would be answers to other informational questions. Not only does it give the answer to: "Is the cat on the mat?", but also to "Where is the cat?", which is a much wider question. The message also contains, as McCulloch has stressed, something in addition to a report about the cat, namely, a mandatory aspect; it urges the recipient of the message to pick the cat up, to kick the cat, feed it, ignore it, put it out, according to taste, purpose, and so forth. The message is a command or stimulus as well as being a report. There is a further range of implicit communication in this message, two additional categories of implicit con-tent. One category includes the implicit communication between A and B that the word "cat" shall stand for a particular furry, four-footed thing or for a category of furry, four-footed things. People are not necessarily in clear agreement about what their messages mean. The senders have their rules or habits in constructing mes-sages; the recipients have their rules and habits in inter-preting them; and there is not always agreement between the rules of the sender and the rules of the recipient. One of the most important uses of messages, and especially of their interchange, the single message doesn't mean much or do much in this respect, is to bring the two persons or the many persons together into an implicit agreement as to what the words are to mean. That is one of the most important social functions of talking. It is not that we want to know where the cat is, but that we terribly want it to be true that both persons are talking the same "language" in the widest sense of the word. If we
This paper seeks to relate involvement and joking in conversation through close investigation of passages from everyday talk. Conversationalists maintain involvement - or the coherent give and take of talk in interaction - by signaling their understanding of and attitudes toward their jointly constructed discourse. Joking impinges on involvement in various ways, affecting coherence at the micro-level, expressing both rapport and aggression, and reframing the interaction as play. Thus word play tends to disrupt topical turn-by-turn coherence, though it signals rapport overall, just as exchanging personal anecdotes enhances positive affect. Sarcasm and mocking seem to signal negative affect, but even these aggressive forms of joking reframe the interaction as play like the other joking strategies, so they end up conveying solidarity and modulating involvement, especially among conversationalists who maintain a customary joking relationship.
Many researchers claim joking and laughter to be an adjacency pair. There are, however, a range of strategies used for supporting humor in conversation, of which laughter is just one. This paper uses natural conversational data to illustrate a variety of humor support strategies. Common support strategies include contributing more humor, playing along with the gag, using echo or overlap, offering sympathy and contradicting self-deprecating humor. There are four implicatures associated with full support of humor:
This paper seeks to explain the jury’s verdict of acquittal in the bizarre case of eccentric millionaire Robert Durst, who was charged with the murder of Morris Black after Black’s body parts were found floating in Galveston Bay off the coast of Texas. Though an analysis of a portion of the defense’ closing argument, this paper examines the Durst defense team’s strategy of directing the jury’s attention to a single event – the confrontation that resulted in Black’s death – in order to effect a shift in focus that allowed them to use “reasonable doubt” to leverage their argument that the prosecution had not met its burden of proof. This paper demonstrates how this strategy acted to construct the “unreasonable doubt” that resulted in the jury’s verdict.
In this article, I explore the main theoretical issues facing researchers in conversational humor today. In particular, I address (1) the structure of humorous discourse; (2) the forms of conversational humor: jokes, anecdotes, wordplay, irony; (3) the interpersonal functions of conversational humor: aggression versus rapport; (4) single-stage versus multi-stage processing of humor; and (5) the description of timing in word play and narrative jokes.
This book offers new insight into one of the most disturbing social problems of modern societies: rape. Using tape recordings of actual trials, Gregory M. Matoesian looks at the social construction of rape trials and at how a woman's experience of violation can be transformed in the courtroom into an act of routine, consensual sex. Matoesian examines the language of the courtroom, focusing on how defense lawyers interpret and classify rape in a way that makes the victim's experience appear as a normal sexual encounter. He analyzes the language that defense attorneys use in cross-examination to argue that courtroom talk can shape the victim's testimony to fit male standards of legitimate sexual practice. On this view, cross-examination is an adversarial war of words through which lawyers manipulate reality and perpetuate the patriarchal domination of women. Reproducing Rape will interest students and professionals in law, criminology, sociology, feminist theory, linguistics, and anthropology.
Since many legal disputes are battles over the meaning of a statute, contract, testimony, or the Constitution, judges must interpret language in order to decide why one proposed meaning overrides another. And in making their decisions about meaning appear authoritative and fair, judges often write about the nature of linguistic interpretation. In the first book to examine the linguistic analysis of law, Lawrence M. Solan shows that judges sometimes inaccurately portray the way we use language, creating inconsistencies in their decisions and threatening the fairness of the judicial system. Solan uses a wealth of examples to illustrate the way linguistics enters the process of judicial decision making: a death penalty case that the Supreme Court decided by analyzing the use of adjectives in a jury instruction; criminal cases whose outcomes depend on the Supreme Court's analysis of the relationship between adverbs and prepositional phrases; and cases focused on the meaning of certain words in the Constitution. Solan finds that judges often describe our use of language poorly because there is no clear relationship between the principles of linguistics and the jurisprudential goals that the judge wishes to promote. A major contribution to the growing interdisciplinary scholarship on law and its social and cultural context, Solan's lucid, engaging book is equally accessible to linguists, lawyers, philosophers, anthropologists, literary theorists, and political scientists.
The Judicial Humorist: A Collection of Judicial Opinions and Other Frivolities. Little, Brown and Company
  • William L Prosser
Prosser, William L. (Ed.), 1952. The Judicial Humorist: A Collection of Judicial Opinions and Other Frivolities. Little, Brown and Company, Boston.
Humorous anecdotes of the Georgia Judiciary, 1884–1920
  • Neville
Neville, J. Richard, 1990. Humorous anecdotes of the Georgia Judiciary, 1884-1920. Mercer Law Review 41, 655-661. Norrick, Neal R., 2003. Issues in conversational joking. Journal of Pragmatics 35, 1333-1359.
Linguistic Theories of Humor The position of humor in human communication Motivation in Humor
  • Attardo
  • Salvatore
Attardo, Salvatore, 1994. Linguistic Theories of Humor. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin/New York. Bateson, Gregory, 1969. The position of humor in human communication. In: Levine, Jacob (Ed.), Motivation in Humor. Atherton Press, New York, pp. 159–166.
Is judicial humor judicious?
  • Rushing
Rushing, Susan K., 1990. Is judicial humor judicious? Scribes Journal of Legal Writing 1, 125-142.
The Trial (Translated by Breon Mitchell)
  • Franz Kafka
Kafka, Franz, 1998. The Trial (Translated by Breon Mitchell). Schocken Books, New York.
My afternoon with Alex: An interview with Judge Kozinski. Litigation: The Journal of the Section of Litigation
  • Jeffrey Cole
Cole, Jeffrey, 2004. My afternoon with Alex: An interview with Judge Kozinski. Litigation: The Journal of the Section of Litigation [American Bar Association] 30, 6-20.
The Anatomy of Satire Lawyers' use of humor as persuasion
  • Highet
  • Gilbert
Highet, Gilbert, 1962. The Anatomy of Satire. Princeton University Press, Princeton. Hobbs, Pamela, in press. Lawyers' use of humor as persuasion. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research.
History of Trial by Jury
  • William J W Forsyth
  • Parker
  • London
  • Fry Jr
  • F William
Forsyth, William, 1852. History of Trial by Jury. J.W. Parker, London. Fry Jr., William F., 1963. Sweet Madness: A Study of Humor. Pacific Books, Palo Alto CA.
Humor, the Law, and Judge Kozinski's Greatest Hits
  • David A Golden
Golden, David A., 1992. Humor, the Law, and Judge Kozinski's Greatest Hits. Brigham Young Law Review, 1992, pp. 507-548
Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (Translated by Cloudesley Brereton and Fred Rothwell)
  • Henri Bergson
Bergson, Henri, 1999. Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (Translated by Cloudesley Brereton and Fred Rothwell). Green Integer Books, Copenhagen/Los Angeles.
The Language of JudgesRhyming judge' takes over high court. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Posted at:
  • Solan
  • Lawrence
Solan, Lawrence M., 1993. The Language of Judges. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago/London. Strawley, George, 2002. 'Rhyming judge' takes over high court. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 5 2002. Posted at: (last accessed 4-10-05).
Matter of Right: A History of the Michigan Court of Appeals The pragmatics of humor support
  • Charles E Harmon
Harmon, Charles E., 2002. A Matter of Right: A History of the Michigan Court of Appeals. Michigan Court of Appeals, Lansing, MI. Hay, Jennifer, 2001. The pragmatics of humor support. Humor 14, 55–82.
Reproducing Rape: Dominating Through Talk in the Courtroom Appellate Courts in the United States
  • Matoesian
  • Gregory
Matoesian, Gregory, 1993. Reproducing Rape: Dominating Through Talk in the Courtroom. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Meador, Daniel John, Bernstein, Jordana Simone, 1994. Appellate Courts in the United States. West Publishing Co, St.
Thoughts on Laughter and Observations on 'The Fable of the Bees' in Six Letters, 1758 (Introduction by John Price) Thoemmes Antiquarian Books
  • Francis Hutcheson
Hutcheson, Francis, 1989. Thoughts on Laughter and Observations on 'The Fable of the Bees' in Six Letters, 1758 (Introduction by John Price). Thoemmes Antiquarian Books, Bristol.
Appeal Lost, Yet Freedom Won Latin Satire: The Structure of Persuasion The Good News/Bad News Joke Page
  • Weinstein
  • Henry
Weinstein, Henry, 2003. Appeal Lost, Yet Freedom Won. Los Angeles Times, April 23, 2003. p. B1. Witke, Charles, 1970. Latin Satire: The Structure of Persuasion. E.J. Brill, Leiden., 2005. The Good News/Bad News Joke Page. (Posted on: funnystuff/otherstuff/goodnews.html (last accessed 12-5-05).
Is rhyme a crime of judicial decorum when people implore 'em? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Brian O'neill
O'Neill, Brian, 2002. Is rhyme a crime of judicial decorum when people implore 'em? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 8, 2002. Posted at: (last accessed 4-10-05).