SCOTUS Opinion Stats: 5/30/2017

Empirical SCOTUS has analytics from today’s opinions (May 30, 2017). These are organized a bit differently from last week’s results.  We’ve included a measure for opinion readability using the Gunning Fog Index (lower scores tend to equate to easier reading).  The most frequent words in each majority opinion are also provided.

The Court release four decisions today in the cases: County of Los Angeles v. Mendez, BNSF R. Co. v. Tyrrell, Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions, Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark Int’l, Inc. (individual links are to the opinions. For more information on the cases see SCOTUSBlog’s 2016 term list of cases).  One particularly noteworthy addition to today’s opinions was Justice Gorsuch’s participation in BNSF which is the first majority decision that included his vote.

Sheet 1

Lexmark, one of the more awaited decisions of this term was also the longest majority opinion of the day. Below are comparisons of the opinions’ readability scores.

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Although all opinions score towards the very readable side of the readability spectrum, Justice Thomas’ majority opinion in Esquivel ranks as the most complex of the bunch.

Next are additional metrics for each opinion. These include distinctive word count, sentence count, average words per sentence, and length of the longest sentence.

Mendez Majority
Distinct Words 855
Sentences 319
Words per Sentence 10.76
Longest Sentence (Words) 61
BNSF Majority
Distinct Words 846
Sentences 514
Words per Sentence 7.19
Longest Sentence (Words) 57
BNSF – concur and dissent in part
Distinct Words 474
Sentences 169
Words per Sentence 8.74
Longest Sentence (Words) 53
Esquivel Majority
Distinct Words 773
Sentences 316
Words per Sentence 11.55
Longest Sentence (Words) 63
Lexmark Majority
Distinct Words 1209
Sentences 515
Words per Sentence 11.28
Longest Sentence (Words) 56
Lexmark – concur and dissent in part
Distinct Words 284
Sentences 119
Words per Sentence 5.8
Longest Sentence (Words) 36

Finally, there are graphs for the most frequent words in each majority opinion beginning with Mendez.


On Twitter: @AdamSFeldman

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