The Columbia Journalism Review has questioned a New York Times story, cited last week in Crime & Justice News, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court is losing its influence in the wider world. “You won't find much evidence for the proposition” in the Times story, says the review. The publication says that, “In 2,500 words, the piece gives only two concrete pieces of evidence for the apparent trend–statistics about declining court citations in Canada and Australia. Meanwhile, the article proposes at least six possible causes, without doing much to demonstrate the validity of any of them.”
Australian state supreme courts cited U.S. decisions 208 times in 1995, says a study by Russell Smyth, an Australian economist. By 2005, the number had fallen to 72. Smyth found that between 1905 and 1975, the number of American citations never rose above sixteen; in both 1965 and 1975 the number was twelve. But ten years later, in 1985, it jumped to 105. In 1995 it jumped again, to 208. The Times “used my study in a slightly misleading way,” Smyth said. The 2005 decline should be considered in light of the 1985 and 1995 increases after the Australia Act of 1985-1986, severing legal ties between Australia and the United Kingdom. It was, Smyth said, “the beginning of attempts to forge a national legal identity” and led to greater citation of foreign, but non-British, jurisprudence.