Stern: Nonlegal citations in U.S. Supreme Court opinions

Bezalel Stern of Columbia University has published Nonlegal Citations and the Failure of Law: A Case Study of the Supreme Court 2010-2011 Term, Whittier Law Review, 35, 75-102 (2013).

Here is the abstract:

Nonlegal citations both exist and proliferate within contemporary judicial opinions. This realization could — indeed, it should — lead the reader to ask a fundamental question: What are these nonlegal citations doing in a judicial opinion?

This article aims to answer that question. I present in this article an empirical view of the Supreme Court’s relationship to nonlegal citations in its jurisprudence, using the Supreme Court’s October 2010 Term as a case study. By analyzing the number and usage of nonlegal citations from this Term, as well as the information collected by earlier scholars studying similar material, I provide the beginnings of an explanation of what exactly nonlegal sources are used for in Supreme Court opinions, both rhetorically and legally. In doing so, I hope to help clarify why nonlegal citations exist in Supreme Court opinions at all.

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