Korner: Sabermetrics on SCOTUS
Not so many party-line votes here


Five Thirty Eight linked this interesting chart:



I had thought Kennedy was about where Roberts is, and that Roberts was closer to Alito; that would make me think the centerline should be a bit farther left.  On the other hand, is Ruth Bader Ginsburg really less of a liberal than Clarence Thomas is a conservative?  That would have made me think the line should be a bit farther right.


Bailey's scores below (emphasized on Wikipedia) have every Justice right where I pictured them:



Blue = Thomas

Brick = Alito

Black = Roberts

Green = Kennedy

Yellow = median

Dot = Kagan

Purple = Breyer

Gray = Sotomayor

Orange = Ginsburg

Bailey also sees Ginsburg and Sotomayor as being far more moderate than all four conservative justices. (?!)

TAKEAWAY Most of the lines head south.  Most Justices become somewhat more liberal as they get older.  


Wikipedia also has a surprisingly good issue-by-issue rating chart here.  It's not at all dissimilar to a Fangraphs chart, and it is sortable.  Maybe we can get a K/BB style ratio of IRS/Federal Power ratio?  :- )

1.  Alito and Thomas = 19% and 21% rulings in favor of defendant rights in criminal cases.  Kagan 71% of the time sided with the defendant.

2.  Alito = 21% siding with individual freedoms in speech.  Sotomayor sided with the individual in 77% of the landmark cases brought.

3.  Thomas = 24% siding with minority groups in the specific civil rights questions they brought.  Ginsburg 69% of the time.

4.  Roberts = 86% siding with the government on the IRS.  Interestingly, Thomas the second most "liberal" judge at only 57%.  The two extremes are held down by Kagan on one side and Sotomayor on the other.  Whaaa?

5.  Alito = 86% siding with corporations in knife-edge F-500 lawsuits; Ginsburg still 56%.

TAKEAWAY We read the Fangraphs-style chart on the Justices' voting records, and take comfort that it's not a bunch of 100%, 0% votes like they are becoming in the Senate ...

TAKEAWAY Senators hear Gorsuch say "I'm just going to stick to the text" and they smile, because they know their real interest is --- > Gorsuch's percentages on the chart above.


Kennedy and Souter (who used to be about where Breyer is, I think) were appointed by Republican judges who thought they'd be were Alito is now.  I wonder what the chances are, of that occurring with Gorsuch?


There is a buzz that says Trump already knows about a second opening this summer.  Can't imagine where he'd get that, other than conversations with Kennedy about his retirement.






of denying people civil rights and freedom of speech.  :) I know, case by case. Its all in the details. A playful jab, but that's how it looks from over here.

So if your liberal at 20, conservative at 40, you go back to liberal at 60? Is that 'downward' trend really just tracking our society; meaning America's gotten more liberal. Thats how it tracks to me. Why would impartial people move in any direction?

Maybe Trump, ah heck might as well blame Bannon, bannon planted some proliferated russian nuclear material under Ginsburg seat and it takes several months to finally 'kick in'. HA, this is KK after all. Love you guys!


GregfromSpokane's picture

All Supreme court decisions of all time seemingly pale in comparison to "Citizens United."

Well that might be overstating it, slightly. Just curious where you come down on this case, Jeff.

To me this precludes us from ever getting our political system out of the grip of big moneyed

interests. Do you think corporations are people, too? 



From our voters' perspective, it seems like a no-brainer for Draining the Swamp.  But I know almost nothing about it.  Would be nice to HEAR from people what the arguments are for and against.  

... you ever notice when you Google something like this, it's impossible to get simple analysis?  Every site makes the issue sound one-sided!


Legally, the Constitution does not SAY that Congress will not impede the exercise of INDIVIDUAL rights.  It says "Congress shall make no LAW" abridging freedom of speech.  A plain reading of the law seems to keep Congress' mitts off Boeing's speech the same way it keeps Congress' mitts off the NY Times' speech.

Mojo can correct me if I'm wrong?

Seattle Sports Outsider's picture

Looking at those graphs, starting in the 1980s we're seeing a major split growing between the left/right members of the court. Maybe that's mirroring society? The politicizing of the court is really a shame, it's sinking the level of trust we have it the judiciary. It's kind of sad that a we all know which side 8/9 judges will come down on with only a rudimentary summary of a case before them. Gives the appearance that no one is really "calling balls and strikes" - they are almost all ideologues.  I agree with the judges getting personally more liberal as they age - that mirrors society getting progressively more liberal. Wouldn't it be great to see more than a single a justice that we didn't know exactly how they'd decide before we even heard the case? It would at least make the court seem more impartial.

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