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Inside the U.S. Supreme Court: The Reliability of the Justices' Conference Records

Forrest Maltzman and Paul J. Wahlbeck
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 58, No. 2 (May, 1996), pp. 528-539
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2960238
Page Count: 12
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Inside the U.S. Supreme Court: The Reliability of the Justices' Conference Records
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Abstract

Judicial scholars are making increased use of data from the justices' personal papers. In the face of comments by justices questioning the reliability of this information and, perhaps, skepticism among judicial scholars about the reliability of some justices' records, it is important to explore the reliability of data drawn from their papers. To do so, we examine the conference records for the 1967 and 1968 terms of the Supreme Court. For these years, the papers of four justices, Earl Warren, William Douglas, William Brennan, and Thurgood Marshall, are available at the Library of Congress. We found that their records are substantially accurate and reliable. A logit model of conference recording error finds that mistakes are not simply random noise, but can be explained as a function of case complexity, the length of joint service with the voting justices, tentative conference positions, and Court consensus.

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