The Supreme Court Compendium: Data, Decision, and Developments

The Supreme Court Compendium: Data, Decision, and Developments

by Lee Epstein, Harold J. Spaeth, Jeffrey S. Segal

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Vast amounts of statistical analysis of the work of the Supreme Court are here organized into a single-volume reference that will appeal to court scholars, journalists, students, librarians, lawyers, and historians. Through the extensive use of tables, the authors document the activity and composition of the court from the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to the appointment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993. These tables appear within chapters that provide the organizational structure for the data. The first three chapters focus on the history of the court and its important decisions. The next three provide information on individual justices, including details about their lives, schooling, and voting and opinion-writing records. The remaining chapters plot public perception of the court and its impact on policy. A scholarly discussion of the scope and sources of the data is included, as are bibliographies for each chapter. An excellent tool for answering quick, factual questions, this book is essential for anyone studying the court in depth. Highly recommended.-Joan Pedzich, Harris, Beach & Wilcox, Rochester, N.Y.
A comprehensive collection of data and relevant information on all aspects of the US Supreme Court, including its characteristics and those of the justices, the environment in which it operates, and the public's views of its decisions and perceptions about the Court itself. Paper edition (unseen), $34.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Zom Zoms
The four professors who collaborated to produce this collection of data have created a tool that should be useful to the serious researcher, the pragmatic analyst, and the merely curious. According to the preface, they became frustrated at having to consult several sources any time they wanted even the simplest information about the Supreme Court and the environment in which it has operated, and so they compiled data as comprehensive as possible. Table notes explain some of the language and circumstances, but the tables consist of simple data rather than complicated statistical analyses and do not require advanced interpretive skills Information comes from a variety of sources, which are cited for each table: published reports of Court decisions, electronic information retrieval systems (LEXIS, WESTLAW, and Project Hermes), archived databases (U.S. Supreme Court Judicial Databases, National Opinion Research Center's General Social Survey), governmental reports ("Statistical Abstracts", annual reports of caseloads), and assorted historical accounts and secondary sources such as the "Dictionary of American Biography". Whenever possible, tables cover from February 1790 to the present Chapters 13 focus on the Supreme Court as an institution. Tables trace congressional legislation that affected the Court, budget appropriations, salary histories of the justices, the Court calendar, employees of the Court, landmark decisions, and chronological and topical trends. It's interesting to note that in 1900, 151 of the 197 cases heard were decided by unanimous decision; by 1952 only 17 of 104 decisions were unanimous. Chapters 46 emphasize the individual justices' characteristics, such as family backgrounds, childhood environments, education and employment histories, political and military experiences, and scholarly credentials. Also covered are circumstances surrounding retirements, resignations, and deaths; quotations from classic opinions; voting behavior; and agreement patterns. All of this information is available elsewhere, but not in concise tabular form. Patterns are easily seen in the chronologically arranged tables, such as the party switching that characterized many of the Supreme Court nominees of Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Abraham Lincoln, and Rutherford B. Hayes. The alphabetically arranged tables can be misleading; at first glance table 4-8 seems to show that "all" justices had prior political experience at either the state or federal level and table 4-9 that "all" had prior judicial experience, but neither table includes all justices For some, the most interesting parts of the compedium will be chapters 710. They reveal the political and social environment in which the Court operates and show some trends in its impact on our society and vice versa. Tables show congressional legislation that has been subject to litigation, constitutional amendments that have been ratified to alter Court decisions, the public's view of the Court, and the possible effect of Court rulings on public policy questions such as capital punishment, abortion, and affirmative action A compendium, by its nature, does not try to resolve controversial issues but presents data that allow others to draw their own conclusions. This one certainly provides food for thought, and the selected bibliography suggests further reading. It is a desirable, but optional, purchase for most libraries because all of the information can be located in other sources. But the time-saving convenience and the affordability of this volume recommend it to libraries where there is interest in the Supreme Court.

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Congressional Quarterly, Inc.
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