Network Analysis and the Law: Measuring the Legal Importance of Supreme Court Precedents
46 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2006 Last revised: 29 Sep 2009
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: Suggested Citation