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Widely Cited Supreme Court Database Made More Accessible

November 2, 2009 | by Jasmine Rangel

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The success of the highly regarded Supreme Court Database has been unparalleled. Information from the database is cited in the majority of peer-reviewed articles about the workings of the court.

A team including Northwestern University School of Law's Lee Epstein, a specialist in the politics of the Supreme Court, has expanded the database -- with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the latest in today's technology -- to make the resource easily accessible to a wider audience.

Now, a streamlined interface allows anyone to go online and pull up cases with ease. "The idea is to get a lot of people to the site who want to learn about the court but are unfamiliar with statistical software," Epstein said.

By modernizing the Supreme Court Database, Epstein and her team are expanding Michigan State University Law Professor Harold Spaeth's original invention and using technology that wasn't available at its inception.

Currently, cases from 1953 to 2008 are available. New funding from NSF means the database can be expanded to include information dating back to the court's first decision in 1792.

The Supreme Court Database began with Spaeth's work in the late 1980s. Spaeth was able to collect decades of data on the court and put it together in a comprehensive database available to the public.

The Supreme Court Database is accessible at http://supremecourtdatabase.org. The online version and a downloadable version are available. The database is updated every term.

Media should contact Pat Vaughan Tremmel at (847) 491-4892 or p-tremmel@northwestern.edu

Topics: Research