Network Analysis and the Law: Measuring the Legal Importance of Supreme Court Precedents

46 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2006 Last revised: 29 Sep 2009

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences; UC San Diego School of Medicine

Timothy R. Johnson

University of Minnesota

James F. Spriggs II II

Washington University in Saint Louis - Department of Political Science; Washington University in Saint Louis - Center for Empirical Research in the Law

Sangick Jeon

Stanford University - Department of Political Science

Paul J. Wahlbeck

George Washington University

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Abstract

We construct the complete network of 28,951 majority opinions written by the U.S. Supreme Court and the cases they cite from 1792 to 2005. We illustrate some basic properties of this network and then describe a method for creating importance scores using the data to identify the most important Court precedents at any point in time. This method yields dynamic rankings that can be used to predict the future citation behavior of state courts, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court, and these rankings outperform several commonly used alternative measures of case importance.

Keywords: Supreme Court, precedent, law, citation analysis, case importance

JEL Classification: K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Fowler, James H. and Johnson, Timothy R. and Spriggs II, James F. and Jeon, Sangick and Wahlbeck, Paul J., Network Analysis and the Law: Measuring the Legal Importance of Supreme Court Precedents. Political Analysis, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 324-346, July 2007 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=906827

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

UC San Diego School of Medicine ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

Timothy R. Johnson

University of Minnesota ( email )

Department of Political Science
1414 Social Sciences, 267 19th Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0410
United States

James F. Spriggs II (Contact Author)

Washington University in Saint Louis - Department of Political Science ( email )

One Brookings Drive
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

Washington University in Saint Louis - Center for Empirical Research in the Law ( email )

One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

Sangick Jeon

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

616 Serra Street
Encina Hall West, Suite 100
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Paul J. Wahlbeck

George Washington University ( email )

Department of Political Science
2115 G Street, N.W. Ste 440
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-4872 (Phone)
202-994-7743 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://home.gwu.edu/~wahlbeck

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