Guess Which Justice Is Taking The Most Necessary Circumstances

cartoon The Supreme Court architectureTo begin, a few of you should be asking how one measures “vital circumstances,” particularly when there isn’t a goal measure for this. These measures may additionally present the problem in every case or case complexity, however “most vital circumstances” appear to embody these different adjectives. 

Nonetheless, measuring crucial circumstances may appear a subjective matter. It is a legitimate concern, and so I don’t use one measure to get at this phenomenon however moderately a number of measures and search for convergence.

If a number of issues level in the identical course, we usually tend to get at this focal point even when a single variable doesn’t (if it seems like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s most likely a duck). 

For this publish I analyzed a number of variables referring to the final Supreme Courtroom Time period with none expectations of a convergent consequence. This made the discovering much less anticipated on one hand, whereas however (and enthusiastic about this after the very fact) the consequence will not be solely stunning. 

I began out by measuring a couple of case degree variables from final time period with the intention of evaluating circumstances alongside a couple of dimensions. These measures are utilized in a wide range of research, primarily as management variables in these articles. 

I then tied these to the bulk creator of every case to see which justice(s) had been dealing with the circumstances on the prime of every measure. These measures embody deserves and cert amicus briefs, the full phrase counts of deserves briefs, and the citations to Supreme Courtroom circumstances in deserves briefs. 

Every of those variables has distributions. Whereas a few of these variables don’t differ a lot, others differ fairly a bit.

Listed below are two examples. The primary is the variety of phrases per deserves transient. For the reason that Supreme Courtroom Guidelines lay out a most phrase depend for deserves briefs (13,000 – see pages 45 and 46 right here), one may anticipate most briefs to teeter proper about at this restrict. The one exception is for joined circumstances with a number of dockets the place the petitioner or respondent is similar throughout the dockets. Then the phrase depend could exceed this restrict (in circumstances with a number of briefs for a facet I averaged the phrase and quotation counts between the briefs).


Most briefs not surprisingly carefully abutted this restrict. The principle exception was the petitioner’s transient in Collins v. Yellin which runs slightly below 20,000 phrases. That is a type of situations with a number of dockets in the identical case.

Once we take a look at the distribution of citations to Supreme Courtroom opinions in every transient the unfold is far higher. 


The higher distribution for this variable has to do with the truth that there isn’t a most variety of circumstances cited in a short.  Many circumstances with a excessive variety of cites in a single transient even have a excessive variety of cites within the different deserves transient and vice-versa, though this doesn’t maintain in each occasion.  I’ll get to extra on this later within the publish. 

Bringing the main focus again to the justices, whereas there isn’t a one approach to measure crucial circumstances we will acquire some perception by the variety of of us on the periphery of the case which have an curiosity in it. Which justice tends to take these circumstances? When you guessed Chief Justice John Roberts, you’d be appropriate. Let’s begin with cert stage amicus briefs and take a look at these based mostly on the justice who wrote the bulk opinions within the circumstances with essentially the most of those briefs.


“PC” on the backside refers to per curiam or opinions by the Courtroom with out a majority creator. The 53 cert stage amicus briefs filed in circumstances with opinions later authored by Roberts dwarfs the 36 in circumstances with opinions by Justice Breyer and 17 in circumstances with opinions by Justice Alito. Maybe there will likely be a distinction once we take a look at deserves stage amicus briefs.  


Alas no. Just like the discovering for cert stage amicus briefs, Roberts’ circumstances with 227 related amicus briefs on the deserves embody a far higher quantity than the 173 in circumstances with majority opinions by Breyer, and the 96 such briefs in circumstances the place Thomas was the bulk creator. 

This holds for different areas as effectively. Take cites in deserves briefs to Supreme Courtroom choices. This measure will get on the extent of circumstances relied on within the briefs, and with this it supplies a measure of the power of precedent within the briefs. Once we take a look at this measure by justice, the numbers are packed extra tightly collectively than what we noticed for the opposite measures, however this nonetheless reveals the identical development.


The 533 distinctive Supreme Courtroom circumstances cited in briefs with opinions later authored by Chief Justice Roberts nonetheless outdoes the 487 in circumstances with majority opinions from Justice Thomas and the 429 in circumstances with opinions by Justice Gorsuch.

Shifting past this measure, we see a lot of the identical with transient phrase counts.  Even with the widely related variety of phrases in events’ deserves briefs throughout the time period, the outcomes by justice nonetheless break down in a similar way. 


Roberts’ circumstances lead the pack with 175,656 pages of deserves briefs. Temporary web page counts for circumstances with majority opinions authored by Justice Thomas lag greater than 5,000 phrases behind with a complete of 170,503 phrases.  

One final measure, with nothing to do with the briefs, results in an analogous consequence. The subsequent graph seems at complete variety of separate opinions in circumstances determined by every justice. This presents divergences of the justices’ views of every resolution and relates the complexities of every case and subsequent issue in reaching final consensus among the many justices. Even concurrences specific some measure of distinction from majority opinions.


Right here too now we have an analogous consequence. CJ Roberts’ choices had 12 separate opinions related to them. After Roberts, Justice Kagan’s opinions had 11 separate opinions related to them and Justice Alito had 10 separate opinions related together with his majority opinions. 

The above measures all insinuate Roberts determined circumstances in the course of the 2020 time period with extra generalized significance and complexity than circumstances determined by the opposite justices. 

These measures may give an image of how circumstances from the 2020 time period stack up.  The subsequent graph reveals the variety of cert stage amicus briefs by case.


Individuals for Prosperity Basis v. Bonta with 23 cert stage amicus briefs and Google v. Oracle with 16 surpass the variety of such briefs filed in different circumstances.  17 circumstances throughout the time period had no cert stage amicus briefs in any respect. Now to deserves amicus briefs.


Fulton v. Metropolis of Philadelphia had by far essentially the most such briefs with 82. The Google v. Oracle case had the subsequent most with 59. The one case with zero deserves amicus briefs final time period was Salinas v. United States Railroad Retirement Board

Wanting on the variety of Supreme Courtroom circumstances cited within the briefs we see a couple of circumstances far out in entrance.


Probably the most citations got here in briefs in BP v. Mayor and Metropolis Council of Baltimore with 163.  The case with the subsequent most was Edwards v. Vannoy with 125.

Lastly, we will take a look at these measures and examine them by the deserves briefs for all sides in the identical circumstances. Once we take a look at this differential for deserves amicus briefs per facet in every case we get the next:


The largest distinction was within the Individuals for Prosperity Basis case the place the petitioner facet had 36 extra amicus briefs filed than the respondent facet. On the opposite finish, the respondent facet in Mahanoy had 17 extra amicus briefs filed than the petitioner facet.

Subsequent, now we have on the distinction in quotation counts in briefs per facet:


The case with the most important differential in Supreme Courtroom cites in deserves briefs was U.S. Collins with 42 extra distinctive Supreme Courtroom circumstances cited by petitioners than by respondents. On the opposite finish Garland v. Dai noticed 40 extra cites within the respondents’ briefs than in petitioners.

One final and unrelated measure tracks the USA’ participation in circumstances throughout the time period.


The US performed a job in all however two circumstances orally argued over the past time period. It participated essentially the most instances because the respondent on the deserves with 15 appearances in comparison with the 13 because the petitioner on the deserves. The one circumstances with out U.S. participation had been Carney v. Adams and AMG Capital v. FTC.

Whereas the measures may all be fascinating, every tells a unique story. They permit for comparisons between circumstances that aren’t obvious just by studying via briefs and opinions. Additionally they permit us to guage the work carried out by every justice and provides us measures for comparability. As for the justices, as I discussed earlier, every particular person measure in a vacuum may not say a lot. The aggregated outcomes although present that Roberts, very presumably by his personal doing since he assigns the bulk opinions in circumstances the place he’s within the majority, took crucial circumstances throughout numerous, largely unrelated measures.

Learn extra at Empirical SCOTUS…

Adam Feldman runs the litigation consulting firm Optimized Authorized Options LLC. For extra info write Adam at Discover him on Twitter: @AdamSFeldman.

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Written by colin


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