Where is precedent set? An exploratory geovisualization of State Supreme Court cases

2015-03-05T09:00:21Z (GMT) by Justin Stoler Alessandria San Roman
<p>Vast data warehouses of legal documents and court decisions present an opportunity for data visualization and analysis, yet court decisions have rarely been visualized geographically. We explore the potential for geographic visualization of judicial case data by mapping a state-level standardized score calculated from 135 State Supreme Court abortion cases published in the USA between 1973 and 2013, and again from 228 redistricting cases published between 1962 and 2013. We observe substantial variation in <i>Z</i>-scores across the USA, with geographic patterning of high values observed for redistricting cases, but not for abortion cases. The resulting maps suggest that the geovisualization of court decisions may aid the generation and testing of hypotheses about whether or not certain states disproportionately set legal precedent and subsequently influence the national discourse on a given issue. This type of geovisualization may also have implications for forum shopping and other geographically explicit legal strategies.</p>