June 22, 2009

Interesting Supreme Court visualization

A few weeks ago I mentioned how cool it would be to use technology to examine the history of the Supreme Court. Well, SCOTUSScores.com has done just that by compiling "the relative location of each U.S. Supreme Court justice on an ideological continuum" as determined by two political science professors. The data set runs from 1937 until today.

Some interesting things I noticed:

Despite the "progressive" rulings of Roe, Brown, and Miranda the average and median score of the Court never dipped into real liberal territory.

Rehnquist was considerably more conservative during his time as Associate Justice than Chief Justice. Maybe the "prestige" of being the first among equals was the cause?

William Douglas was the longest serving Justice in Supreme Court history at 36 years and by the end was a committed liberal.

The Court's "liberal wing" started out less liberal than the "conservative wing" did conservative.

Probably the biggest ideological change occurred between Marshall and Thomas.

Anyway, take a look through the spreadsheet and reach your own conclusions.