Ryan A. Malphurs conducted an interesting study of laughter in proceedings before the U.S. Supreme Court, following up on the work of Jerry Wexler for the New York Times. His entire article is must-reading for fans of legal humor, but this attention-grabbing opening excerpt from an oral argument in Safford Unified School District v. Redding certainly stands out:
Justice Breyer: In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, okay? And in my experience, too, people did sometime stick things in my underwear–
Justice Breyer: Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever. I was the one who did it? I don’t know.
Studying all notations of “(Laughter)” appearing in the Court’s oral argument transcripts during the 2006-2007 term, Malphurs found 131 instances of ha-ha outbursts.
–Ryan A. Malphurs, “People Did Sometimes Stick Things in my Underwear”: The Function of Laughter at the U.S. Supreme Court, 10 Communication L. Rev. 48 (2010).