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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. Thus, if the petitoner is a railroad and the disposition of the case is affirmed, the injured party wins; Conversely, if the petitioner (e.g., a tortfeasor) wins because of a reversal, the decision is anti-liability. If the injured person or thing is the plaintiff, the disposition of the case will again determine if the respondent is liable or not. If the winning party is an insurance company, the direction of the decision will likely be anti-liability. Conversely, if an injured person wins the outcome will be pro-liability. If government is a party and the governmental body wins, the result is pro-liability. This is true not only in tort actions, but also governmental contract litigation. Losing parties are somewhat arbitrarily defined as pro-liability even though that party is the plaintiff.

In short, the direction of these three issues will depend on who or what was injured, the Court's decision, and who won/lost.

To phrase the direction of these three variables more succinctly: if the case concerns an injured person, place, or thing, 2 = pro-injured entity. If the case does not concern an injured entity and the decision is affirmed, the plaintiff is pro-liability. If the decision is reversed, the petitioner is not liable, the respondent is. Note especially: If the decision in a government tort or contract case is pro-government, 2 = pro-government. Losers are pro-liability even though they are plaintiffs.

It bears emphasizing that the entry for this variable 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 nonresidents
  • pro-attorney or governmental official
  • 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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