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Topic: Statistically, is the Supreme Court constitutional?
Replies: 1   Last Post: Feb 9, 2012 1:50 AM

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Posts: 57
Registered: 8/26/09
Statistically, is the Supreme Court constitutional?
Posted: Feb 8, 2012 9:46 PM
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Maybe I should word the question: Is the Supreme Court consistent
with the ideas of the founding fathers?

The role of the US-SC is to decide the constitutionality of
laws passed by Congress and the States (primarily). If all
decisions rendered by the court came out 9-0 then we might
expect that the mandate of the court was clear cut. On the
other hand, if the justices voted as if each tossed a coin
for every decision then their function would be more harmful
than anything else.

Shortly after Sandra Day OConnor retired, I took all the
decisions rendered by each justice over a period of several
years. I assigned a 1 to a yes vote (concur) and a 0 to
a no vote. I then had 9 time series, one for each justice,
consisting of a sequence of 1s and 0s.

I calculated the covariance matrix of these 9 time series
and the eigenvectors/eigenvalues of the matrix. By looking
at the eigenvalues I can determine the effective number of
justices on the court. If a single eigenvalue represented
all the variance, then the court would be voting as a single
mind. On the other hand, if the nine eigenvalues were roughly
equal then that would mean no coherence to the voting.

It turned out that just a little over 2 eigenvalues accounted
for almost all of the variance. I think that means that
philosophical differences account for the decisions. It
may not be partisanship, but it certainly represents factionalism.

The Founding Fathers wanted to avoid factionalism.

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