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Monday, September 30, 2013

Steal this Map!

It's been a fun month blogging here at Prawfs -- thanks to Dan and crew for letting me hang out. As it happens, this final installment in my SCOTUS mapping series falls on the very last Monday in September. The first Monday in October is thus just around the corner. However, while Court junkies everywhere should be smiling, the prospect of a federal shutdown threatens to delay the our precious fix. Mercy!

Yet let's not let the Congressional anarchy get us down. Instead, we can embrace the farce Yippie! style. The Court Term will start sooner or later -- and doctrinal controversy will surely follow. And when those good days come at last, we'll all once again get to debate and dispute the meaning of our favorite constitutional Clauses and Amendments. So let the clowns play.  In the meanwhile, fellow junkies might like to recall some recent highs the Court gave us.

(Full Size Image)

Remember Windsor and DOMA? Sure you do. That case got our Nation seriously talking about serious consitutional issues of equality and rights. IMHO, Windsor is way more interesting than guessing who's going to blink in a game of chicken that will keep our government opened or closed.  And so the map above represents the genealogy of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in that critical battle. I've explained how this map works in a forthcoming piece in Northwestern Law Review Colloquy. Download it if you like, it's free!

Of course, Obamacare is at the heart of this whole federal shutdown boogie. Now didn't the Court actually decide whether that contentious law was consitutional a couple of Terms ago? Gee, I think I do. I even seem to recall that the law was upheld under the Tax Power. Then again, NFIB v. Sebelius did stir up a hornet's nest with its treatment of the Commerce Power. That was quite a colorful doctrinal fight. Want a picture? You know there's a map for that.

NFIB v Sebelius
(Full size image)

Looking above, we can see that debates over the reach of federal power go way  back. Back to the Civil Rights Era. Back to the New Deal. Back to Chief Justice Marshall and even to the Constitution itself. Perhaps we can take some solace in this chain of disagreement. Regardless of the particulars of this Commerce Clause dispute (explained more in this piece), the fact is that we've been arguing about Big Government forever. Though freshly annoying, the shutdown controversy we're experiencing today is hardly new. 

So forward we march. The Court has a host of intriguing arguments teed up this Term -- from Town of Greece v. Galloway to Fernandez v. California to McCutcheon v. F.E.C. to Walden v. Fiore and more. Such cases promise to be hotly disputed. And they, in turn, will all require judicial interpretation of prior hotly disputed cases. Lines of competing opinions will stertch back and clash forward. In short, there will be doctrinal dialectics. Such dialectics are perfect for doctrinal mapping

As I mentioned in my last post, modest stipends are available for folks potentially interested in using the SCOTUS mapper software to chart out such doctrinal debates. Though this Term's cases provide great material, proposals need not concern doctrines currently before the Court. Indeed, any map that helps build the free library visualizing a contested area of Court doctrine is welcome. Please let me know if you have questions or are interested.  

Well, it's time to sign off. I may hang out on Prawfs a bit more in October, but I promise not to talk about maps anymore. Have a great Term and here's to the Blawg! 

Related Posts

Part I [Introduction to Mapping], Part II [Dissents and Competing Traditions], Part III [Network Analysis Compared], Part IV [Maps in the Classroom], Part V [Maps and Doctrinal Scholarship], Part VI [SCOTUS Mapping Going Forward].

Posted by Colin Starger on September 30, 2013 at 08:54 AM | Permalink


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