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Decision Direction
Variable Name
Spaeth Name
3 [ view ]

In order to determine whether the Court supports or opposes the issue to which the case pertains, this variable codes the ideological "direction" of the decision.

Specification of direction comports with conventional usage for the most part except for the interstate relations, private law, and the miscellaneous issues. "Unspecifiable" has been entered either because the issue does not lend itself to a liberal or conservative description (e.g., a boundary dispute between two states, real property, wills and estates), or because no convention exists as to which is the liberal side and which is the conservative side (e.g., the legislative veto). This variable will also contain "unspecifiable" where one state sues another under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and where parties or issue cannot be determined because of a tied vote or lack of information.

Note especially that the direction (pro- or anti-liability)of the three liability variables (80060, 80070, and 80080) depend on the disposition the Court made of the case, and which party won or lost. For 80070 -- non-governmental liability - a liberal vote and case decision support the injured person, organiation, or thing (res). For 80060 - governmental liability - a vote and case outcome that supports government is invariably defined as liberal. Note that if the injured entity is the other party in the case, said party loses, by definition. On the other hand, of course, if the injured entity wins, then of necessity the government loses. Where liability is assigned to both plaintiff and respondent, direction is considered indetermnable.

For purposes of the governmental liability issue, government includes state and local governmental entities, foreign governments, and governmentally owned property. In the rare instance of a conflict between governmental body and an injured person, organiation, or thing the governmental outcome controls directionality. Most such conflicts, however, locate in other issues; e.g., attorneys' and governemtnal employees' compensation or fees, and military personnel and veterans.

It bears emphasizing that the entry for directionality is determined by reference to the issue variable. If you are using the Case Centered Dataset organized by split votes, it is entirely possible for a citation to relate to a second issue whose direction is opposite that of the first issue. For example, in Air Pollution Variance Board of the State of Colorado v. Western Alfalfa Corporation, 416 U.S. 861 (1974), the Court decided that the Fourth Amendment was not violated by a health inspector's warrantless entry onto the property of a business to inspect smoke pollution. The first issue (search and seizure) is coded conservative; the second issue (natural resources) is coded liberal.

In order to determine whether an outcome is liberal (=2) or conservative (=1), the following scheme is employed.

1. In the context of issues pertaining to criminal procedure, civil rights, First Amendment, due process, privacy, and attorneys, liberal (2)=

  • pro-person accused or convicted of crime, or denied a jury trial
  • pro-civil liberties or civil rights claimant, especially those exercising less protected civil rights (e.g., homosexuality)
  • pro-child or juvenile
  • pro-indigent
  • pro-Indian
  • pro-affirmative action
  • pro-neutrality in establishment clause cases
  • pro-female in abortion
  • pro-underdog
  • anti-slavery
  • incorporation of foreign territories
  • anti-government in the context of due process, except for takings clause cases where a pro-government, anti-owner vote is considered liberal except in criminal forfeiture cases or those where the taking is pro-business
  • violation of due process by exercising jurisdiction over nonresident
  • pro-attorney or governmental official in non-liability cases
  • pro-accountability and/or anti-corruption in campaign spending
  • pro-privacy vis-a-vis the 1st Amendment where the privacy invaded is that of mental incompetents
  • pro-disclosure in Freedom of Information Act issues except for employment and student records

conservative (1)=the reverse of above

2. In the context of issues pertaining to unions and economic activity, liberal (2)=

  • pro-union except in union antitrust where liberal = pro-competition
  • pro-government
  • anti-business
  • anti-employer
  • pro-competition
  • pro-injured person
  • pro-indigent
  • pro-small business vis-a-vis large business
  • pro-state/anti-business in state tax cases
  • pro-debtor
  • pro-bankrupt
  • pro-Indian
  • pro-environmental protection
  • pro-economic underdog
  • pro-consumer
  • pro-accountability in governmental corruption
  • pro-original grantee, purchaser, or occupant in state and territorial land claims
  • anti-union member or employee vis-a-vis union
  • anti-union in union antitrust
  • anti-union in union or closed shop
  • pro-trial in arbitration

    conservative (1)= reverse of above

    3. In the context of issues pertaining to judicial power, liberal (2)=

    • pro-exercise of judicial power
    • pro-judicial "activism"
    • pro-judicial review of administrative action

    conservative (1)=reverse of above

    4. In the context of issues pertaining to federalism, liberal (2)=

    • pro-federal power
    • pro-executive power in executive/congressional disputes
    • anti-state

    conservative (1)=reverse of above

    5. In the context of issues pertaining to federal taxation, liberal (2)= pro-United States; conservative (1)= pro-taxpayer

    6. In interstate relations and private law issues, unspecifiable (3) for all such cases.

    7. In miscellaneous, incorporation of foreign territories and executive authority vis-a-vis congress or the states or judcial authority vis-a-vis state or federal legislative authority = (2); legislative veto = (1).
    1 conservative
    2 liberal
    3 unspecifiable
Identification Variables
Background Variables
Chronological Variables
Substantive Variables
Outcome Variables
Voting & Opinion Variables

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