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The Evolution of State Supreme Courts (with Robert A. Kagan et al.), 76 Michigan Law Review 961 (1978)


The past century has seen a striking variation in the size of state supreme courts' caseloads–the number of appeals they hear and opinions they write. Some courts issued 500 opinions or more in a single year; others wrote fewer than 100. A single court's caseload sometimes doubled from one decade to the next and then declined again. This Article reports the findings of our research on how caseload size affected the structure and business of American state supreme courts from 1870 to 1970. These findings derive from a study of state supreme courts, as revealed by selected quantitative measures. We have asked: How many cases did these courts decide? And what kinds? What types of litigants did they serve? How did their work change over the years? How did it differ from state to state? What do the changes suggest about the direction of state supreme court development and about the causal links between social conditions and legal change?

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