CERL Receives NSF Grant for Supreme Court Database Project
Researchers at the law school’s Center for Empirical Research in the Law (CERL) will receive $191,000 to update the Supreme Court Database, as part of a $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
The database was originally created by Michigan State Professor Harold Spaeth and currently contains information about all Supreme Court cases from 1953 to the present. As part of a four-year collaborative project, the database is being expanded to include cases dating all the way back to the first case heard by the Supreme Court in 1793. Once complete, it will be the most comprehensive repository of statistical records available, spanning every justice vote and case throughout the court’s history.
“The Supreme Court Database project is important to the academic community and the public,” said Andrew D. Martin, professor of law and professor and chair of the Department of Political Science in Arts & Sciences. “Hundreds of academic studies are based on these data, and having a more comprehensive collection will broaden the scholarly impact. The project also provides a Web tool that lawyers, journalists, and interested citizens can use to research cases and perform statistical summaries of the Supreme Court. The project will greatly contribute to our understanding of the court.”
The project is a collaborative effort among scholars at Northwestern University, Michigan State University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Stony Brook University, and Washington University. CERL serves as the technological home for the project, including being responsible for maintaining and updating the project’s Web-based infrastructure.
Founding director of CERL, Martin said that when complete, the database will “open up the doors to all types of questions that we haven’t been able to answer before.” He noted that scientists and legal scholars will be able, for the first time, to map the nation’s legal development dating back to the Supreme Court’s first decisions.
The grant is the fourth in a series of significant National Science Foundation grants for CERL projects.
By Brent Mueller