The Development of Structure in the Citation Network of the United States Supreme Court




This is one of our all time best efforts from a scientific perspective (and it is now 7 years old).  We did a rehash of it in our recent paper in the March 31, 2017 edition of Science magazine.

What are some of the key takeaway points?

(1) The Supreme Court’s increasing reliance upon its own decisions over the 1800-1830 window.

(2) The important role of maritime/admiralty law in the early years of the Supreme Court’s citation network. At least with respect to the Supreme Court’s citation network, these maritime decisions are the root of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence.

(3) The increasing centrality of decisions such as Marbury v. Madison, Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee to the overall network.

The Development of Structure in the SCOTUS Citation Network

The visualization offered above is the largest weakly connected component of the citation network of the United States Supreme Court (1800-1829). Each time slice visualizes the aggregate network as of the year in question.

In our paper entitled Distance Measures for Dynamic Citation Networks, we offer some thoughts on the early SCOTUS citation network. In reviewing the visual above note ….“[T]he Court’s early citation practices indicate a general absence of references to its own prior decisions. While the court did invoke well-established legal concepts, those concepts were often originally developed in alternative domains or jurisdictions. At some level, the lack of self-reference and corresponding reliance upon external sources is not terribly surprising. Namely, there often did not exist a set of established Supreme Court precedents for the class of disputes which reached the high court. Thus, it was necessary for the jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court, seen through the prism of its case-to-case citation network, to transition through a loading phase. During this loading phase, the largest weakly connected component of the graph generally lacked any meaningful clustering. However, this sparsely connected graph would soon give way, and by the early 1820’s, the largest weakly connected component displayed detectable structure.”

We also explore this network in our 2010 paper — Michael Bommarito, Daniel Martin Katz, Jonathan Zelner & James Fowler, Distance Measures for Dynamic Citation Networks 389 Physica A 4201 (2010) < SSRN > < arXiv >

Exploring the Physical Properties of Regulatory Ecosystems – Professors Daniel Martin Katz + Michael J Bommarito

Network Analysis and Law Tutorial – Katz + Bommarito

Above is a tutorial that Mike and I developed for the Jurix Conference in Vienna in December of 2011. Feel free to message if I can answer any questions.