Monday, May 6, 2013

Supreme Court Vs Business

The Minnesota Law Review has posted an interesting study that attempts to decide how pro-business the Supreme Court is. Please go and read it yourself, starting with this lead piece - as near as I can tell, the study is extremely well put together and as fair as possible.

If you can't stand thinking for yourself, an alternative is to go read this NYT article and assume they're only printing their motto - "Half the News that's Fit to print".

The interesting thing to me, and the thing that speaks to good study design, is the discussion of Judge Posner's review and re-coding of the cases in the Spaeth Datasets. In essence, the new codes eliminate some of the old simplistic business-wins-equals-conservative, business-loses-equals-liberal ideology that seems to have warped Spaeth's results.

Another very interesting result is that it appears that business-wins-equals-conservative assumption only holds statistical validity in Spaeth's "Core" business cases, and shows a small negative correlation in the wider set of business-related cases in which business was not the first named party.

Figure 2 shows an amazingly close correlation in Spaeth's dataset, and a splatter in the ones that Spaeth decided not to include - which to me is a clear indication of cherry-picking.

On the other hand, the reversal of sign in the "non-core" cases may actually indicate a failure of the simplistic conservative-liberal axis to accurately state the ideologies at issue. A case where a union member wants to keep his own money in his pocket, rather than let the union give it to a politician, would be coded as "conservative" or "pro business", when really it is a case of liberal or libertarian individual right of free speech and political expression - a classic liberal position.

Oh, and the result is that the Supremes are pretty pro-business at the moment. (Of course, swinging back the pendulum can look like that even if the decisions are just moving the law back to neutral.)

Nice job, Minnesota Law Review!

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