Are the nine Supreme Court justices simply “politicians in robes,” destined by ideology to vote a certain way, or are they independent actors, whose opinions reflect their times, their experience and, most of all, the law itself?
Mathematician Lawrence Sirovich, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, has tried to answer the question with a mathematical model to gauge the justices’ independence, according to the Washington Post.
He catalogued how often each one sides with the majority or the minority. Sirovich analyzed 468 opinions between 1994 and 2002 to assess how often the justices seemed to fit into predictable ideological boxes.
Sirovich used a scale of 1 to 9, where a score of 9 meant the justices always made decisions without regard to ideological alliances or factions, and a score of 1 demonstrated ideological lockstep. The court scored 4.68. Get rid of the unanimous findings — 47 percent of the total, which Sirovich suggested were “no-brainers” — and the rating soared to 6.2.
“That’s pretty good, in terms of how close it is to the ideal,” Sirovich said.