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Supreme Court BlockPy Library

From the CORGIS Dataset Project

By Austin Cory Bart
Version 2.0.0, created 3/27/2016
Tags: us, usa, united states, government, law, legal, court, case, supreme, judge, barrister, lawyer, federal, national


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:

<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:>

Key Descriptions

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