Can you identify a supreme court case based on the majority makeup?
March 29, 2011 12:37 PM   Subscribe

What was the one Supreme Court case from 1994 to 1997 that had Rehnquist, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer in the majority? It was also the only one from that time period, I believe, that didn't have O'Connor or Kennedy in the majority.

I'm using the sc9497 library package in R which has a dataset of the non-unanimous decisions from those years and lists which Justices were in the majority and minority. Only knowing who was in the majority for that one unique configuration, is there a way to find out which case it was? It was the 156th case out of 213 total, but I don't think that says much because the unanimous cases were not included.
posted by andoatnp to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you have the author you can usually search google with the phrase you'd see indicating who concurred.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:39 PM on March 29, 2011

Response by poster: I'm not sure I completely understand your comment, but all I know about the case is who voted in the majority and minority.
posted by andoatnp at 12:41 PM on March 29, 2011

meaning, if you can find the author, you draft a search string that says "Justice X delivered the opinion of the court, in which ehnquist, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ concurred."

that's the key.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:44 PM on March 29, 2011

sorry, messed that up, but you get the point.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:45 PM on March 29, 2011

Response by poster: If I don't have the author, is there some other way I might be able to figure it out?
posted by andoatnp at 12:46 PM on March 29, 2011

You'll be able to do it from the richer database here:
posted by Perplexity at 12:48 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: it was lawyer v. department of justice
posted by countingaugust at 12:49 PM on March 29, 2011

Response by poster: countingaugust: Thanks so much! While I don't think I'll have a similar question that I'll be trying to answer in the future, I'm curious how you were able to figure out the answer.
posted by andoatnp at 12:53 PM on March 29, 2011

Best answer: no problem. i went to the oyez website, went to cases from the 96-97 term (since the 156/213 suggested it would be near the end of the timespan you identified), and looked at the 5-4 decisions from that term that were authored by one of the 5 justices you named. (too much time as a law nerd finally pays off...)
posted by countingaugust at 12:57 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you want another interesting oddball case like this (even odder, I think), check out Granholm v. Heald. This was a case about whether the 21st amendment (which ended Prohibition) allowed states to restrict the interstate shipment of alcohol (in particular, wine). (Holding: no.) The lineup was extremely unusual. The majority was Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. That meant the minority was an equally odd Thomas, Rehnquist, Stevens and O'Connor.

If I recall correctly, this was the only case in the entire time that this panel all sat together (and a very long time that was) which wound up with this distribution of votes.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 3:25 PM on March 29, 2011

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