Measuring Supreme Court Case Complexity
Forthcoming, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization
36 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 1, 2021
Case complexity is central to the study of judicial politics. The dominant measures of Supreme Court case complexity use information on legal issues and provisions observed post-decision. As a result, scholars using these measures to study merits stage outcomes such as bargaining, voting, separate opinion production, and opinion content introduce post-treatment bias and exacerbate endogeneity concerns. Furthermore, existing issue measures are not valid proxies for complexity. Leveraging information on issues and provisions extracted from merits briefs, we develop a new latent measure of Supreme Court case complexity. This measure maps with the prevailing understanding of the underlying concept while mitigating inferential threats that hamper empirical evaluations. Our brief-based measurement strategy is generalizable to other contexts where it is important to generate exogenous and pre-treatment indicators for use in explaining merits decisions.
Keywords: Supreme Court, Case Complexity, Briefs, Measurement
JEL Classification: K00, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation