Visualization of the Ideological History of the Supreme Court

USSC MQ Scores

Here is a cool visual for the Martin-Quinn Scores. For those of you not familiar, the Martin-Quinn paper and “MQ Scores” represented a significant breakthrough in the field of judicial politics. On that note, Stephen Jessee & Alexander Tahk have done a nice job both bringing their data up to date and extending their work.  For those interested, click on the visual above and check out all of the relevant links contained within this post.  

Tracking the TARP [From Information Aesthetics]


Information Aesthetics is now highlighting Subsidyscope — a project designed to track how various institutions receive federal monies.  Of particular interest is their visualization of disbursements under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Sponsored by the PEW Charitable Trust, the site also contains .csv files for most of the underlying data.

An Exchange in Need of Empirics and an Analytical or Computational Model

section 5

On a recent flight, I read Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker Article on Chief Justice Roberts entitled “No More Mr. Nice Guy”.  The exchange quoted above is drawn from this article. While I believe it is appropriate to engage empirical data where available, the underlying discussion is not one exclusively subjectable to empirical inquiry.  Rather, it is, at least in part, a question in need of a formal theoretic model. Justice Roberts and Mr. Katyal are implicitly discussing a “state of the world” not yet realized but which would be realized if the statute were not to exist. What would benefit the discussion is principled manner to adjudicate between these two inferences drawn above.  Namely, it would be useful to fully evaluate what behavior would likely follow if the statute were not to exist.

There exist a variety of mathematical modeling techniques which could inject some much needed rigor into the above discussion. To my knowledge, such an applied model has yet to be offered.  The Supreme Court’s decision in the matter is soon forthcoming. Given the nature of the exchange above, there is reason to believe that if Chief Justice Roberts prevails ….we will get our model as the “state of the world” discussed above will no longer be hypothetical…. 

Measuring the Centrality of Federal Judges

Centrality of Federal Judges

Above are some graph statistics from our paper Hustle and Flow: A Social Network Analysis of the American Federal Judiciary.  The paper measures the aggregated window of 1995-2005. These, of course, are not the only measures of centrality but they are commonly used in the network science literature. If you are interested — click through to the paper for a description of how these measures are calculated.  

We believe these and other elements of the paper offer a good cut on the question of social prestige within the American Federal Judiciary. For example, in the paper we offer a graph visualization where Judge now Justice Alito as well as Judge turned Attorney General Michael Mukasey occupy an extremely central social position (just outside of the Top 25).  We think this is useful because their social prestige is measured at a time period prior to their respective nominations. With appropriate control variables for the respective office in question … perhaps we might have been able to predict their nomination?

For purposes of the current Supreme Court opening and conditioned on the selection of a lower court justice with “blue team” credentials, we believe these graph statistics indicate Judge Sonia SotomayorJudge Merrick Garland , Judge William Fletcher & Judge David Tatel all occupy high levels of social prestige among their fellow judges and justices. Debate regarding qualifications of various individuals is likely to continue. While certainly not dispositive, we thought it appropriate to offer some social scientific evidence on the question.  

President Obama might go outside the tradtional Federal Court of Appeals judge on this round. For example, Governor Jennifer Granholm, Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appear to be on the short list. However, keep these names in mind as this is probably not President Obama’s last nomination to the high court.    

Various Explanations for the Financial Crisis-(From Information Aesthetics)


While the explanations might be imperfect in some respects, we are following the lead of Information Aesthetics and linking you to some videos potentially useful for explaining the financial crisis to a lay audience.  Click above and it will lead you to several interesting videos … from there it is possible to traverse the YouTube graph out to see many others.    

Death Penalty Around the World — (From Flowing Data)

Death Penalty

Blogging is going to be light from here through Memorial Day …. but we will back to a more typical posting cycle in late May.  In the meantime, we thought we would briefly highlight an interesting visual we saw over at Flowing Data.  This visual produced by Good Magazine maps the use of the death penalty across various countries.

Syllabus–Modeling Law as a Complex Adaptive System

Law as a CAS

Several months ago, I put together this syllabus for use in a future seminar course Law as a Complex System.   A number of my friends and colleagues noted that if were to actually use this syllabus in a course, it would be necessary to reduce the total reading in contained herein. While I completely agree, I still thought I would post it to the blog in its current form. I am proud to say that I am an award winning instructor.  Notwithstanding, I am always interested in improving my pedagogical skills. Thus, if you see any law related scholarship you believe should be included please feel free to email me.

Data on the Law Clerkship Tournament: Take 2

Circuit Clerk Tourney

Highlighting underlying data Derek Stafford and I collected for our article Hustle and Flow: A Social Network Analysis of the American Federal Judiciary — here is some additional information on the law clerk tournament.  In the original post, we highlighted both Circuit and District Court Clerkship Placements for the 1995-2005 period.

Using only the Circuit Court data, we thought it might be interesting to consider how those placements are distributed across the various circuits.  At first glance, observe the regional or home turf bias contained in the placements (Penn 3rd Circuit ; Vanderbilt 6th Circuit).  Furthermore, consider institutions whose placements are highly concentrated (Berkeley 9th Circuit) versus institutions with more diffuse placements (Michigan, Chicago).  

The Bailout Breakdown from the Associated Press

Bailout Breakdown recently highlighted this interactive “Bailout Breakdown” offered by the Associated Press….. “Bailout Breakdown from Associated Press is an interactive applet that lets the user analyze the recipients and amounts of the $700 Billion bailout plan from the American government. The data is presented as a scatterplot with additional information about the representations when the hovers over a plotted item. The markers are color coded to distinguish between pending, pre-approved, approved and paid status.”  At the end of his post, Benjamin Wiederkehr offers some principled critiques of the visualization techniques employed by the authors. Notwithstanding, we still thought it was still worthy of highlighting.

Classifying the US Patent Hierarchy

Patent Classifications

The United States Patent and Trademark Office patent classification scheme organizes 3 million patents into about 160,000 distinct patent classes. This visualization by Katy Börner, Elisha Hardy, Bruce W. Herr II, Todd M. Holloway, & W. Bradford Paley considers the organizational schema used to classify patents at the US Patent Office.  Their article Taxonomy Visualization in Support of the Semi-Automatic Validation and Optimization of Organizational Schemas was published in the Journal of Informetrics in 2007.

From the Abstract: “The taxonomy visualization and validation (TV) tool introduced in this paper supports the semi-automatic validation and optimization of organizational schemas such as file directories, classification hierarchies, taxonomies, or other structures imposed on a data set for organization, access, and naming. By showing the “goodness of fit” for a schema and the potentially millions of entities it organizes, the TV tool eases the identification and reclassification of misclassified information entities, the identification of classes that grow too large, the evaluation of the size and homogeneity of existing classes, the examination of the “well-formedness” of an organizational schema, and more.”