Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Lawyer Nerdiness

I was looking at the Ledbetter case again and it got me thinking about a project I have been meaning to undertake.

There is significant disagreement about which of the Circuit Courts of Appeal get reversed by the Supreme Court the most. The debate centers on whether the Ninth Circuit is as crazy as many people argue it is.

Proponents of this view point out that the 9th Circuit gets reversed more times than any other circuit. Others point out that the 9th gets more cases reviewed more often because it is so much bigger than the other Circuits.

I have this idea floating around that would look at data that I haven't seen analyzed yet: I want to count the votes.

The Supreme Court reverses most cases it reviews--why would it take a case if all it wanted to do was agree? None of the Circuits have great records at the Supreme Court. At the same time, few decisions are unanimous, which means that some justice probably voted to affirm. Why not count up the votes?

Supreme Court opinions are binary in the sense that one party wins and one party loses, but examining the cases as wins or losses clouds the fact that the Court splits on many cases. Furthermore, in many cases every justice votes to reverse but cannot agree on the reasons. To plot out which Circuit most resembles the Supreme Court, counting the votes to affirm or reverse takes into effect the data most relevant.

But when am I going to do this? Shouldn't I be studying for the bar?

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