The Biggest Supreme Court Cases of the Term

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This Term the Supreme Court decided to tackle cases dealing with a variety of hot-button issues ranging from the right to an abortion (or more specifically the right for who can provide an abortion) to the meaning of “one person, one vote.”  These issues affect a profound portion of the American populace.  Correspondingly these cases often make headlines, not only after the Court makes a decision, but in the days and weeks leading up to those decisions.  In this post I provide a way to analyze the most anticipated cases and decisions of the 2015-2016 Supreme Court Term.

This post uses coverage in the news media as a gauge for case importance and so it brings with it the assumption that relative news coverage is a way to measure interest in a case or decision.  Since a portion of the cases for this Term have both been orally argued and ruled on, I look at coverage of the cases before these two points.  To gauge the most anticipated decisions of the Term in a manner that does not favor already decided cases, I look at the coverage of a case up to the day before a decision was made.  Similarly to gauge the most anticipated cases of the year, I look to the coverage up to the day prior to oral arguments in a case. Although the picture may be somewhat skewed due to the sequence of arguments and decisions in the Term, there are only a few cases which should be largely affected by this analysis timeline (e.g. the not yet argued case of U.S. v. Texas).  Thus, another way to view this post is as showing the most anticipated cases and decisions up through today.

To measure the most anticipated decisions of the year I used the top five most widely read U.S. newspapers: USA Today, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal (abstracts only) looking at a time period of one-year ending a day prior to the day the decision was handed down (or to Friday April 8th if the case was not yet decided; online coverage from these newspapers is included in this measure which explains the large counts for the Washington Post relative to the other papers).  Thus especially with U.S. v. Texas, I expect this measurement will not account for the full breadth of the news coverage of this case.

AnticipDecisions

Of the top cases, the anticipation measure will likely increase for U.S. v. Texas, Zubik, Fisher, and Whole Woman’s Health prior to these decisions, yet U.S. v. Texas is the only one of these not yet argued.  The counts for the amount of coverage of each of the cases from this Term are provided at the bottom.

To measure the most anticipated cases of the year I searched all U.S. newspapers covered by LexisNexis and searched for a time period of one-year ending a day prior to the day the of oral arguments in the case (or to Friday April 8th if the case was not yet argued).  This brings with it the same caveat that it likely under-accounts for cases not yet argued.

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Evenwel and Friedrichs are in the top three cases in both categories and similarly U.S. v. Texas is the only case near the top of the most anticipated cases that has not yet been argued.  If the anticipation for decision graph tracks similarly to this graph (for the period until the decisions in the yet undecided cases) then the only case with significant upwards movement is likely to be U.S. v. Texas.

I will take another look at these cases to see what changes occur after all of the decisions for the Term have been handed down.

Anticipated Decisions Table

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Anticipated Cases Table

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Follow me on Twitter: @AdamSFeldman

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