Each year, the Harvard Law Review publishes a series of tables summarizing numerical trends from the Court’s most recent Term. Those tables can be found in our print issues and online as PDFs. This year, we’ve also translated our Supreme Court Statistics into interactive visualizations.
This feature is an experiment for us — but one we hope to expand over time. If you have ideas for how the online statistics can be improved, please send us a note.
Figure I: Voting Alignments in Nonunanimous Cases
In what percentage of nonunanimous cases does Justice Thomas agree with Justice Sotomayor? Select a Term via the dropdown menu below, and hover over a Justice’s name to see the percentage of that Term’s nonunanimous cases in which they agreed with each of their colleagues.
For example: In the 2018 Term, Justice Kagan aligned least with Justice Thomas. The two agreed on the disposition of only 45.8% of the Term’s nonunanimous cases. Justice Kagan most frequently agreed with Justice Sotomayor. The two reached the same vote 80.6% of the time in nonunanimous cases.
Figure II: 5-4 Majorities
This visualization allows you to experiment with the Court’s various five-four majorities in a given Term.
Detail: Choose a Term from the dropdown menu. Then select a Justice’s initials. Build out your 5-4 majority by selecting a second Justice, and then a third, as each additional row appears. Justices whom you select appear in tan. If your choices force a majority, initials of the Justices that round out that 5-4 bloc will appear in tan and white stripes. If a Justice’s initials appear in gray, it means they did not form a 5-4 majority with your chosen Justices in your chosen Term. Clicking a different Justice’s initials in the first row resets the visual.
For example: In the 2018 Term, Chief Justice Roberts found himself in a 5-4 majority with every one of his colleagues. If you select the Chief, and then select Justice Gorsuch, you’ll find that Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch aligned in only one 5-4 majority — a bloc also comprised of Justices Alito, Kavanaugh, and Thomas. That majority decided seven cases, listed in the graphic.
Note: There were no 5-4 decisions in the 2015 Term.
Figure III: Subject Matter
This visualization maps the areas of law the Court considered. While categories are not always mutually exclusive or clear-cut, we do our best to classify what areas of law each case reflects.
Detail: Choose a Term from the dropdown menu, then hover over the blue circles to see how many cases of each subject matter the Court considered. Clicking a given category will show you a range of sub-categories. Further clicks will ultimately indicate the number of decisions in that universe that resulted in a constitutional holding, or a victory for the government.
For example: Navigating between the circles will show you that the Court decided two federal habeas cases in the 2018 Term — one of which related to the INA (the Immigration and Nationality Act). Clicking that circle will reveal that the case resulted in no constitutional holdings, and a decision for the government. Using the dropdown menu to select 2017, you’ll see that the Court decided eight federal habeas cases that Term.
Figure IV: Justices Ranked by Vote or Opinion
This chart ranks Justices on one of a range of metrics over time. Use the dropdown menu to select what metric you’d like to rank. Options include number of opinions written, number of dissenting votes, and percentage of the time each Justice agreed with the disposition of the Term’s cases.
Detail: Justices’ names appear (at the right y axis) according to their rankings for the 2018 Term. Hovering over a Justice’s name reveals their number or percentage for your chosen metric in each Term they’ve been on the Court, stretching back to 2012.
For example: In the 2018 Term, most Justices joined the Court’s opinion in a majority of cases. Justice Thomas, the sole outlier, joined the Court’s opinion nearly half the time — in 49% of cases. Each Justice agreed in the disposition of the case in more than 61% of the Term’s decisions. Justice Kavanaugh agreed most frequently — siding with the disposition 84.1% of the time.
Note: Because the visualization ranks Justices, it does not represent visually how extreme the distribution might be for any given metric. For that, you’ll have to hover over a year or a Justice’s name and compare the figures that appear.