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Decision Type
Variable Name
Spaeth Name
7 [ view ]

Users should choose among the types of decisions that the Supreme Court renders.

decisionType=1: Cases in which the Court hears oral argument and which it decides by a signed opinion. These are the Court's so-called formally decided full opinion cases.

decisionType=2: Cases decided with an opinion but without hearing oral argument; i.e., per curiam opinions.

decisionType=4: Decrees. This infrequent type of decision usually arises under the Court's original jurisdiction and involves state boundary disputes. The justices will typically appoint a special master to take testimony and render a report, the bulk of which generally becomes the Court's decision. The presence of the label, "decree," distinguishes this type of decision from the others.

decisionType=5: Cases decided by an equally divided vote. When a justice fails to participate in a case or when the Court has a vacancy, the participating justices may cast a tie vote. In such cases, the Reports merely state that "the judgment is affirmed by an equally divided vote" and the name of any nonparticipating justice(s). Their effect is to uphold the decision of the court whose decision the Supreme Court reviewed.

decisionType=6: This decision type is a variant of the formally decided cases (decisionType=1). It differs from type 1 only in that no individual justice's name appears as author of the Court's opinion. Instead, these unsigned orally argued cases are labeled as decided "per curiam." The difference between this type and decisionType=2 is the occurrence of oral argument in the former but not the latter. In both types the opinion of the Court is unsigned; i.e., per curiam.

decisionType=7: Judgments of the Court. This decision type is also a variant of the formally decided cases. It differs from type 1 in that less than a majority of the participating justices agree with the opinion produced by the justice assigned to write the Court's opinion. Except for those interested only in the authors of the opinions of the Court, decisionType=7 should be included in analyses of the Court's formally decided cases.

The database contains all decisions of types 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

The database does not contain all of the non-orally argued per curiam decisions (decisionType=2). The Reports contain large numbers of brief, non-orally argued per curiam decisions. The database includes only those for which the Court has provided a summary, as well as those without a summary in which one or more of the justices wrote an opinion.

Note: For a number of reasons, both substantive and technical, we decided to remove Memorandum Cases (DEC_TYPE of 3) from the modern database.
1 opinion of the court (orally argued)
2 per curiam (no oral argument)
4 decrees
5 equally divided vote
6 per curiam (orally argued)
7 judgment of the Court (orally argued)
8 seriatim
Identification Variables
Background Variables
Chronological Variables
Substantive Variables
Outcome Variables
Voting & Opinion Variables

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