Starger: Visualizing SCOTUS Doctrine II – Dissents and Competing Traditions

Professor Colin Starger of the University of Baltimore has posted Visualizing SCOTUS Doctrine II – Dissents and Competing Traditions, at PrawfsBlawg.

Here are excerpts from the post:

In my last post, I introduced the SCOTUS Mapping Project and explained the basics of its conceptual scheme for visualizing Court doctrine. Today, I want to pick up where I left off and talk about how dissents fit into the picture. My argument is that charting out lines of dissent helps reveal the genealogies of competing doctrinal traditions. Although these competing traditions have evolved over the generations, doctrinal maps illustrate how debates of old continue to inform current conflicts on the Court. […]

Now, the aim of this blog entry is not to analyze the twists and turns of any particular doctrine. The aim is instead to suggest the significance of the fact that the Court’s search-incident-to-arrest doctrine, like so many other key areas, is hotly contested. Debates have raged for years. And though the facts of cases change, the analytical and tensions in the doctrine remain the same. For generations, Justices have differed on the best reading of the relevant texts and they have inevitably looked to prior opinions — majorities, dissents, and concurrences too — to justify their chosen approaches.

Doctrinal maps provide a handy way to visualize the genealogies of these epic debates. They can chart the paths of dialectics between competing traditions of doctrinal interpretation. Dissents can often shed an especially revealing light on such constitutional dialectics. For powerful dissents have often served as inspiration for exiled schools of constitutional thought. Over time, these exiled schools sometimes return to the majority just as prior majorities sometimes find their tradition’s analysis relegated to dissent. […]

With these three examples on the table, Readers should have a fair idea of a typical doctrinal map. At least, the maps above represent my own typical uses of the Mapper software. I have no doubt that others could create different and better visualizations using the same tool. Indeed, I hope to recruit interested Readers into making maps and I have secured limited grant funding to incentivize this. (As I’ll explain in a later post, grants will be in the range of approximately $250-$500 per map). […]

For more details, please see the complete post.

Click here for earlier posts about Professor Starger’s work.

HT @ColinStarger

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