Network Analysis and the Law — 3D-Hi-Def Visualization of the Time Evolving Citation Network of the United States Supreme Court

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.”

What are the elements of the network?

What are the labels?

To help orient the end-user, the visualization highlights several important decisions of the United States Supreme Court offered within the relevant time period:

Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) we labeled as ”Marbury”
Murray v. The Charming Betsey, 6 U.S. 64 (1804) we labeled as “Charming Betsey” Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, 14 U.S. 304 (1816) we labeled as “Martin’s Lessee”
The Anna Maria, 15 U.S. 327 (1817) we labeled as “Anna Maria”
McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819) we labeled as “McCulloch”

Why do cases not always enter the visualization when they are decided?

As we are interested in the core set of cases, we are only visualizing the largest weakly connected component of the United States Supreme Court citation network. Cases are not added until they are linked to the LWCC. For example, Marbury v. Madison is not added to the visualization until a few years after it is decided.

How do I best view the visualization?

Given this is a high-definition video, it may take few seconds to load. We believe that it is worth the wait. In our view, the video is best consumed (1) Full Screen (2) HD On (3) Scaling Off.

Where can I find related papers?

Here is a non-exhaustive list of related scholarship:

Daniel Martin Katz, Network Analysis Reveals the Structural Position of Foreign Law in the Early Jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court (Working Paper – 2014)

Yonatan Lupu & James H. Fowler, Strategic Citations to Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court, 42 Journal of Legal Studies 151 (2013)

Michael Bommarito, Daniel Martin Katz, Jon Zelner & James Fowler, Distance Measures for Dynamic Citation Networks, 389 Physica A  4201 (2010).

Michael Bommarito, Daniel Martin Katz & Jon Zelner, Law as a Seamless Web? Comparison of Various Network Representations of the United States Supreme Court Corpus (1791-2005) in Proceedings of the 12th Intl. Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law (2009).

Frank Cross, Thomas Smith & Antonio Tomarchio, The Reagan Revolution in the Network of Law, 57 Emory L. J. 1227 (2008).

James Fowler & Sangick Jeon, The Authority of Supreme Court Precedent, 30 Soc. Networks 16 (2008).

Elizabeth Leicht, Gavin Clarkson, Kerby Shedden & Mark Newman, Large-Scale Structure of Time Evolving Citation Networks, 59 European Physics Journal B 75 (2007).

Thomas Smith, The Web of the Law, 44 San Diego L.R. 309 (2007).

James Fowler, Timothy R. Johnson, James F. Spriggs II, Sangick Jeon & Paul J. Wahlbeck, Network Analysis and the Law: Measuring the Legal Importance of Precedents at the U.S. Supreme Court, 15 Political Analysis, 324 (2007).

A Rational But Ultimately Unsuccessful Critique of Nate Silver

This article is reasonable in so much as it is a rational argument against Nate Silver’s work at 538 (rather than the ridiculous nonsense he had to endure from folks who are totally clueless – UnSkewedPolls.com, etc.).  However, it is ultimately unsuccessful.

“Nate Silver didn’t nail it; the pollsters did.”  Not true.  They both got it correct (or as accurate as can be when there is only 1 event that is being modeled).

“To be fair, the art of averaging isn’t simple.”  Well it is not just averaging.  Pure averaging is totally stupid.  This is weighting and it is non-trivial because you need to build a notion of how much signal vs. noise to assign to each {pollster, time point combo}.  Some of these polling outfits are totally disreputable and some have historic “house effects” (see e.g. Rasmussen).  With respect to time – the question is how much of the past is useful for predicting the future – so you need some sort of decay function to phase out the impact of prior data points (prior polls) on your current prediction.

It is correct to say that Nate Silver’s model cannot be validated in a traditional sense – he uses simulation – because on every day other than election day – there is no way to execute a direct test of the accuracy of the model.  Simulation is basically as good as we can do in an environment where there is only one event and it is perfectly valid as a scientific endeavor.  If folks want to complain and actually be taken seriously – they can come up with their own positive approach.  The scientific community can engage the competing claims.  For example, the Princeton Election Consortium is a good example of a challenge to the 538 methodology.

No matter what 538 is a hell of a lot better than the status quo practices previously existed to its founding in early 2008. The level of jealously directed toward Nate Silver is completely transparent.  If you want to get all Popperian – go right ahead but then you have little or nothing to say about this or most other prediction problems.  This is what happened in quantitative finance / algo trading and the arbitrage went to those who were not worried about whether what they were doing was science or just engineering [insert Sheldon Cooper quote here] .

One thing we can hope comes out of all this is that all of the data free speculation that was undertaken prior to the election can be put to bed.  I talking about you Dick Morris, Karl Rove, etc. – perhaps you guys should consider retirement and leave the arguments to the serious quants.

9 Weeks to Go — House and Senate Control as Measured by the Iowa Electronic Market

With nine weeks to go before the 2010 Midterm Elections, it is worth checking in with Iowa Electronic Markets to see where things stand. “The IEM 2010 Congressional Election Markets are real-money futures markets where contract payoffs will be determined by the votes cast in the 2010 U.S. Congressional Elections. “Congress10” (plotted above) is based on the composition of both houses of Congress.”

Take a look at the plot above. You will notice there has been significant movement in the past few weeks. Consistent with the beliefs of a number of pundits, the dominant scenario for 2010 is split control “RH_DS10” (i.e Republican House and Democrat Senate). Whether you view this outcome as good or bad, it is important to emphasize there is still time left and these trends could reverse.

Announcing the Beta Prerelease of the New Electronic World Treaty Index

What is the World Treaty Index?

The World Treaty Index (WTI), originally compiled by Peter Rohn in the 1960s and 1970s and subsequently maintained and updated at the University of Washington, is a comprehensive list of all known treaties formed during the twentieth century.  This includes not only treaties formally registered with the United Nations (UNTS) but a significant number of unregistered agreements.

What information does the World Treaty Index provide?

The WTI provides information on the parties to the agreement, the general topic of the agreement (e.g. trade agreement, tax agreement, an arms control agreement, etc.), as well as the signing date and the date in force, and the volume and page containing the text of the agreement.  Though the WTI does not provide the full text of each agreement, it is an excellent resource for identifying when a state (or states) formed a number of international agreements of a particular type.  With a list of relevant agreements (including their volume and page number), an end user interested in obtaining the full text can simply collect them using the primary source material (i.e. UNTS, LTS, etc.)

Who is currently administrating the World Treaty Index?

The Electronic WTI is now housed at the University of Michigan and administrated by Michael BommaritoDaniel Martin Katz and Paul Poast. We are highlighting the newly constructedBeta Prerelease of the WTI website in an effort to obtain feedback prior to the official release. The currently available product provides access to information on more than 58,000bilateral and multilateral treaties formed between 1900 and 1997. When full coverage for the 20th century is complete, the database should feature in excess of 70,000 agreements.

What are some examples of searches I can conduct on the World Treaty Index website?

While the WTI should support all browsers, we suggest using Firefox.  Below are three sample searches.

Search #1: Suppose a user would like to collect all agreements involving Brazil. Use the “flexible search” and follow three easy steps.  (A) Select the country/organization field  (B) within the country/organization field set the field value = Brazil  (C) click the search button.

Search #2: Suppose a user would like to collect all agreements between Mexico and Spain. Use the “flexible search” and follow five easy steps.  (A) Select the country/organization field  (B) within the country/organization field set the field value = Mexico (C) Select a second country/organization field (B) within this new country/organization field set the field value = Spain  (E) now click the search button.

Search #3: Suppose a user would like to know how many extradition agreements France signed between 1950 and 1962.  This is similar to the examples above but involves the topic, signed on or after and signed before or on fields. After the user chooses the proper search fields and selects the search information, the WTI will produce on the screen a list of the desired agreements and provide the option of downloading the list as a CSV file.

When will it feature full coverage for the entire 20th Century?

By the end of 2010, we will add (1) all bilateral treaties formed between 1900 and 1944 [Now Mostly Done] (2) all bilateral treaties formed between 1998 and 1999, and (3) all multilateral agreements and a list of all parties to each multilateral agreement.  If you know of an agreement that is not ultimately featured on the site please contact us and we will be happy to add it to the list.

How can I learn more about the World Treaty Index?

For a general history of the World Treaty Index, visit the “History Page” on the worldtreatyindex.com website.  For a more detailed treatment please see: Glenda Pearson, Rohn’s World Treaty Index: Its Past and Future, 29 International Journal of Legal Information 543 (2001).

What additional extensions of the Electronic World Treaty Index are planned?

As noted above, our initial goal is provide complete coverage of all known agreements in the 20th Century. Planned extensions include bringing the World Treaty forward so as to provide coverage up to 2010.  In addition, we plan to collect information regarding treaty terminations. Finally, we would like to enhance the granularity of our topic codes and allow for agreements with multiple dimensions to feature multiple topic codes.

Feedback?

At this point, we have only offered a beta pre-release of the site. Thus, we would really appreciate your feedback, etc. Please email us at worldtreatyindex@gmail.com if you have any thoughts about how to improve the site.