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:
- 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.
- 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.
- The current Court seems to favor speech promoting (or allied with) conservative causes, and seems to disfavor speech promoting (or allied with) liberal causes.
- 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.
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