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Lee Epstein
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Lee Epsteing Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor
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6+ DECADES OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

Lee Epstein, Washington University in St. Louis
Andrew D. Martin, University of Michigan
Kevin Quinn, University of Michigan

Using a dataset consisting of the 2,967 votes cast by the Justices in the 338 freedom of expression cases decided over 65 terms (1953-2017), we analyze trends in the docket, parties, and outcomes. Key findings are:

  1. Despite some claims that free speech is a special project of the Roberts Court, the current Court hasn't decided more expression cases than its predecessors; on some measures, it's decided fewer.
  2. More than any other modern Court, the Roberts Court has trained its sights on speech promoting conservative values: Only the current Court has resolved a higher fraction of disputes challenging the suppression of conservative rather than liberal expression.
  3. The current Court seems to favor speech promoting (or allied with) conservative causes, and seems to disfavor speech promoting (or allied with) liberal causes.
  4. Comparing all Justices appointed by Democratic (D) and Republican (R) Presidents, only the Roberts Court's Ds and Rs exhibit statistically significant differences in their support for liberal and conservative expression.

Click here for the report (.pdf)
Click here for a related study