Overview

The U.S. Supreme Court Database traces its history back about two decades ago, when Harold J. Spaeth asked the National Science Foundation to fund a database that would be so rich in content that multiple users - even those with vastly distinct projects and purposes in mind - could draw on it. Professor Spaeth's goal was at once refreshingly simple and extremely ambitious: to produce a database that would include and classify every single vote by a Supreme Court justice in all argued cases over a five-decade period. After securing the funding, Spaeth collected and coded the data, performed reliability checks, and eventually amassed the Database. In the late 1980s, he made it (and the documentation necessary to use it) publicly available.

Since then, Professor Spaeth has not only updated it each term; he has also continued to perform reliability analyses, thereby ensuring its integrity with each release, and added new variables. Today's version of the Database houses 247 pieces of information for each case, roughly broken down into six categories: (1) identification variables (e.g., citations and docket numbers); (2) background variables (e.g., how the Court took jurisdiction, origin and source of the case, the reason the Court agreed to decide it); (3) chronological variables (e.g., the date of decision, term of Court, natural court); (4) substantive variables (e.g., legal provisions, issues, direction of decision); (5) outcome variables (e.g., disposition of the case, winning party, formal alteration of precedent, declaration of unconstitutionality); and (6) voting and opinion variables (e.g., how the individual justices voted, their opinions and interagreements).

Case Centered data provides case level information; i.e., each row in the database corresponds to a dispute. These data do not contain specific justice vote information.

A tremendously helpful resource for learning more about the dataset is the codebook: http://supremecourtdatabase.org/documentation.php?s=1.

Harold J. Spaeth, Lee Epstein, Andrew D. Martin, Jeffrey A. Segal, Theodore J. Ruger, and Sara C. Benesh. 2016 Supreme Court Database, Version 2015 Release 02. URL: http://Supremecourtdatabase.org

Explore Structure




Index Type Example Value
0 dict { }
... ... ...
Key Type Example Value Comment
"unclear" bool False
"minority" int 1
"majority" int 8
"majority assigner" dict { }
"majority writer" dict { }
"split on second" bool False
Key Type Example Value Comment
"unusual" bool False
"disposition" str "reversed"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"text" str "patents and copyrights: patent"
"id" int 80180
"area" str "Economic Activity"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"origin" dict { }
"voting" dict { }
"lower court" dict { }
"laws" dict { }
"issue" dict { }
"decision" dict { }
"citation" dict { }
"natural court" dict { }
"source" dict { }
"arguments" dict { }
"3 judge dc?" bool False
"docket" int 24
"id" dict { }
"name" str "HALLIBURTON OIL WELL CEMENTING CO. v. WALKER et al., DOING BUSINESS AS DEPTHOGRAPH CO."
Key Type Example Value Comment
"state" str ""
"agency" str "unknown"
"id" int -1
Key Type Example Value Comment
"start" dict { }
"chief" str "Vinson"
"end" dict { }
"period" int 1
"id" int 1301
Key Type Example Value Comment
"state" str ""
"id" int 172
"entity" str "inventor, patent assigner, trademark owner or holder"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"type" str "Infrequently litigated statutes"
"id" int 6
Key Type Example Value Comment
"precedent altered?" bool True
"case" dict { }
"direction" str "liberal"
"unconstitutional" str "no unconstitutionality"
"authority 1" str "statutory construction"
"authority 2" str ""
"admin action" dict { }
"jurisdiction" str "rehearing or reargument"
"term" int 1946
"date" dict { }
"winning party" str "favorable disposition for petitioning party"
"type" str "court opinion"
"dissent agrees" bool False
Key Type Example Value Comment
"month" int 6
"full" str "June/24/1946"
"day" int 24
"year" int 1946
Key Type Example Value Comment
"date reargued" dict { }
"date argued" dict { }
"respondent" dict { }
"petitioner" dict { }
Key Type Example Value Comment
"long name" str "Black, Hugo ( 08/19/1937 - 09/17/1971 )"
"id" int 78
"name" str "HLBlack"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"case" str "1946-001"
"vote" str "1946-001-01-01-01"
"docket" str "1946-001-01"
"case issues" str "1946-001-01-01"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"state" str ""
"id" int 29
"name" str "U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"month" int 10
"full" str "10/23/1946"
"day" int 23
"year" int 1946
Key Type Example Value Comment
"long name" str "Black, Hugo ( 08/19/1937 - 09/17/1971 )"
"id" int 78
"name" str "HLBlack"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"state" str ""
"id" int 198
"entity" str "oil company, or natural gas producer"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"reasons" str "to resolve question presented"
"disagreement?" bool False
"direction" str "conservative"
"disposition" str "affirmed"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"month" int 8
"full" str "August/23/1949"
"day" int 23
"year" int 1949
Key Type Example Value Comment
"sct" str "67 S. Ct. 6"
"led" str "91 L. Ed. 3"
"us" str "329 U.S. 1"
"lexis" str "1946 U.S. LEXIS 1724"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"month" int 11
"full" str "11/18/1946"
"day" int 18
"year" int 1946
Key Type Example Value Comment
"state" str ""
"id" int 51
"name" str "California Southern U.S. District Court"
Key Type Example Value Comment
"month" int 1
"full" str "1/9/1946"
"day" int 9
"year" int 1946

Downloads

Download all of the following files.

Usage

This library has 1 function you can use.
import supreme_court
list_of_court_case = supreme_court.get_cases()
Additionally, some of the functions can return a sample of the Big Data using an extra argument. If you use this sampled Big Data, it may be much faster. When you are sure your code is correct, you can remove the argument to use the full dataset.
import supreme_court
# These may be slow!
list_of_court_case = supreme_court.get_cases(test=True)

Documentation

 supreme_court.get_cases(test=False)

Returns a list of the court cases in the database.