« J. Howard Marshall, II, Superstar | Main | Greetings from D.C. »

Friday, November 11, 2011

Statistics on "The Supreme Court, 2010 Term: Leading Cases"

The print version of the Supreme Court issue of the Harvard Law Review, volume 125 issue 1, is out (the online version isn't up yet).  I look forward to this issue every year, and I'm thrilled it's here.  It is a terrific issue, essential for constitutional scholars and students of the Supreme Court.  Its Foreword is usually a great state-of-the-union address for people in the field.  The editors themselves contribute highly useful writing to the issue.  They are fantastic--truly admirable.  HLR is the best journal in legal academia.

I say some of the above out of genuine sentiment--I really think it's a consistently great and useful issue--and some of it because I would very much like the Harvard Law Review to publish everything I write, or at least to run reviews of The Agnostic Age and all my books that follow; and yet I want to poke a little bit of fun.  

Every year, the issue features a "Leading Cases" section in which the student editors give short summaries and critiques of many of the noteworthy cases in the past Term.  I mean no insult when I say it is formulaic writing.  All I mean is that it generally follows a fairly constrained traditional formula in terms of structure and content.  I actually think the Leading Cases are often a very useful place to start when you're thinking about a new case.  But it is still striking how much of the formula involves or even encourages disagreeing with the Court, and often telling it how it should have done things.  (Posner would find this unremarkable, given his view that top law students go almost immediately into writing these opinions for judges, which is one more reason for the relatively mechanical legalism, genre writing, and impersonality he thinks characterizes most judicial opinions, including those at the Supreme Court.) 

One of the features of the Supreme Court issue--one of its best and most useful features, in fact--is the "Statistics" section, which provides a statistical overview of the past Term.  I wonder if we could imagine a new section for the Supreme Court issue called "'Leading Cases' in the Supreme Court, 2010: The Statistics," which would provide the same statistical overview for the students' case comments themselves.  If we did that this year, we would find:

Total number of cases discussed: 19

Comments approving fairly broadly of the opinion under discussion: 5 

Number of approved-of cases that are basically consistent with conventional legal liberal views: 3

Comments disapproving fairly broadly of the opinion under discussion: 6

Comments saying the Court "failed to" do or consider something, or "missed an opportunity" to do something, or "should have" done something slightly different: 8

So there you have it.  The Justices are forewarned: They had better do a better job.  And I know just the folks who can help!



Posted by Paul Horwitz on November 11, 2011 at 08:39 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Statistics on "The Supreme Court, 2010 Term: Leading Cases":


Who did the forward this year, and what did they write about?

Posted by: Jarod Bona | Nov 11, 2011 10:58:55 AM

Nice observation Paul. So true. On a different issue, I was struck that the Sorrell case didn't make the "Leading Cases" discussion given how significant it is liable to be to several pending cases because it seems to have re-written the commercial speech doctrine and sub silentio overruled Central Hudson.

Posted by: Tamara Piety | Nov 11, 2011 10:41:14 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.