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Courting Ignorance: Why We Know so Little About Our Most Important Courts

13 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2013 Last revised: 23 Oct 2014

Stephen C. Yeazell

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Date Written: August 6, 2013

Abstract

Moving into the second decade of the twenty-first century, the United States finds itself in paradox. To an extent not always recognized we depend on state trial courts to run the world’s largest economy and coordinate mechanisms of social control. But even as we drown in data about everything else under the sun, we know remarkably little about how those courts work. Although we’re struggling our way to some information about the current situation, we know almost nothing about the workings of our most pervasive judicial system for any period before the 1980s. This essay seeks to explain how little we know and why we know so little. Beyond that it traces the roots of our ignorance to choices about fundamental political structure that date to the founding of the Republic. These choices did not make our ignorance inevitable, but they made it likely, and they make overcoming it difficult, however desirable it may be.

Keywords: Judicial systems, the the National Center for State Courts, state court data

Suggested Citation

Yeazell, Stephen C., Courting Ignorance: Why We Know so Little About Our Most Important Courts (August 6, 2013). 143 Daedalus 129 (2014); UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 13-26. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2306775

Stephen Yeazell (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

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