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Authority for Decision 1
Variable Name
Spaeth Name
7 [ view ]

This variable and the next one (authorityDecision2) specify the bases on which the Supreme Court rested its decision with regard to each legal provision that the Court considered in the case (see variable lawType).

Neither of them lends itself to objectivity. Many cases arguably rest on more than two bases for decision. Given
that the Court's citation of its precedents also qualifies as a common law decision and that most every case can be considered as at least partially based thereon, common law is the default basis for the Court's decisions. With the exception of decrees and brief non-orally argued decisions you may safely add common law to those cases lacking a second basis for decision.

Because one of these bases commonly occurs conjoined with another, the interpretation of the substantive provisions of a federal statute and the Supreme Court's exercise of its supervisory power over the lower federal courts; two separate variables (authorityDecision1, authorityDecision2) follow. The coding is the same in both. In the foregoing example, the first variable will contain a "4," the second a "3." In a case involving congressional acquiescence to longstanding administrative construction of a statute, these variables should appear as "5" and "4." If two bases are identified, and if one is more heavily emphasized, it should appear in the first of the two variables.

Considerable congruence should obtain between the entry in these variables and the code that appears in the lawType variable. Thus, if a constitutional provision appears in the lawType variable, a "1" or a "2" will typically appear in either authorityDecision1 or authorityDecision2. Similarly, if lawType displays a statute, either authorityDecision1 or authorityDecision2 will likely show a "4."

A common exception is where the Court determines the constitutionality of a federal statute, or where judge-made rules are applied to determine liability under various federal statutes, including civil rights acts (e.g., Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522), or the propriety of the federal courts' use of state statutes of limitations to adjudicate federal statutory claims (e.g., Burnett v. Grattan, 468 U.S. 42).

The decision rules governing each of the authority for decision codes are as follows:

For a code of 1: The majority determined the constitutionality of some action taken by some unit or official of the federal government, including an interstate compact.

Enter a "1" if 139 appears in the lawSupp variable.

Enter a "1" if 111 appears in the lawSupp variable.

For a code of 2: Did the majority determine the constitutionality of some action taken by some unit or official of a state or local government? If so, enter a "2."

For a code of 3: If the rules governing codes "1-2," "4-7" are answered negatively or do not apply, enter a "3." A "3," then, serves as the residual code for these variables.

Enter a "3" if 508 appears in the lawSupp variable.

Non-statutorily based Judicial Power topics in the issue variable generally warrant a "3."

Most cases arising under the Court's original jurisdiction should receive a "3."

All cases containing a "4" in the type of decision variable = 3.

Enter a "3" in cases in which the Court denied or dismissed the petition for review or where the decision of a lower court is affirmed by a tie vote.

For a code of 4: Did the majority interpret a federal statute, treaty, or court rule? If so, enter a "4."

Enter a "4" rather than a "3" if the Court interprets a federal statute governing the powers or jurisdiction of a federal court. In other words, a statutory basis for a court's exercise of power or jurisdiction does not require that a "3" supplement a "4"; the latter alone suffices.

Enter a "4" rather than a "2" where the Court construes a state law as incompatible with a federal law.

Do not enter only a "4" where an administrative agency or official acts "pursuant to" a statute. All agency action is purportedly done pursuant to legislative authorization of one sort or another. A "4" may be coupled to a "5" (see below) only if the Court interprets the statute to determine if administrative action is proper.

In workers' compensation litigation involving statutory interpretation and, in addition, a discussion of jury determination and/or the sufficiency of the evidence, enter either a "4" and a "3" or a "3" and a "4." If no statute is identified in the syllabus, only enter a "3."

For a code of 5: Did the majority treats federal administrative action in arriving at its decision? If so, enter a "5."

Enter a "5' and a "4," but not a "5" alone, where an administrative official interprets a federal statute.

Enter a "5" if the issue = 90120.

For a code of 6: Did the majority say in approximately so many words that under its diversity jurisdiction it is interpreting state law? If so, enter a "6."

For a code of 7: Did the majority indicate that it used a judge-made "doctrine" or "rule?" If so, enter a "7." Where such is used in conjunction with a federal law or enacted rule, a "7" and "4" should appear in the two variables of this record.

Enter a "7" if the Court without more merely specifies the disposition the Court has made of the case and cites one or more of its own previously decided cases; but enter a "3" if the citation is qualified by the word, "see."

Enter a "7" if the case concerns admiralty or maritime law, or some other aspect of the law of nations other than a treaty, which qualifies as a "4."

Enter a "7" if the case concerns the retroactive application of a constitutional provision or a previous decision of the Court.

Enter a "7" if the case concerns an exclusionary rule, the harmless error rule (though not the statute), the abstention doctrine, comity, res judicata, or collateral estoppel. Note that some of these, especially comity issues, likely warrant an entry in both authorityDecision variables: a "7" as well as a "3."

Enter a "7" if the case concerns a "rule" or "doctrine" that is not specified as related to or connected with a constitutional or statutory provision (e.g., 376 U.S. 398).
1 judicial review (national level)
2 judicial review (state level)
3 Supreme Court supervision of lower federal or state courts or original jurisdiction
4 statutory construction
5 interpretation of administrative regulation or rule, or executive order
6 diversity jurisdiction
7 federal common law
Identification Variables
Background Variables
Chronological Variables
Substantive Variables
Outcome Variables
Voting & Opinion Variables

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