Measuring Supreme Court Case Complexity

Forthcoming, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization

36 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2021

See all articles by Greg Goelzhauser

Greg Goelzhauser

Utah State University - Department of Political Science

Benjamin Kassow

University of North Dakota-Department of Political Science and Public Administration

Douglas Rice

University of Massachusetts Amherst - Department of Political Science

Date Written: February 1, 2021

Abstract

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

Goelzhauser, Greg and Kassow, Benjamin and Rice, Douglas, Measuring Supreme Court Case Complexity (February 1, 2021). Forthcoming, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3777373 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3777373

Greg Goelzhauser (Contact Author)

Utah State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

0725 University Blvd.
Logan, UT 84322-0725
United States

Benjamin Kassow

University of North Dakota-Department of Political Science and Public Administration ( email )

Grand Forks, ND 58105
United States
6105077626 (Phone)

Douglas Rice

University of Massachusetts Amherst - Department of Political Science ( email )

Thompson Hall
Amherst, MA 01003
United States

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