Charting SCOTUS Decisions Over Time

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to release rulings on key cases over the next week, including the much-awaited decision on the Affordable Care Act.

The court has seen its workload decrease over the last 50 years. Last year, for example, the court issued just 71 rulings, the fewest since at least 1946, the earliest date in the Supreme Court Database. (It decided 197 cases in 1967). This chart shows the trend over time:


2 thoughts on “Charting SCOTUS Decisions Over Time

  1. Hi Matt – really interesting view. Was your comment that the workload of the SCOTUS has decreased over the last 50 years determined by the visual alone, or is there some other measure of workload and productivity that you used?

    The decision COUNT definitely is a downward trend, but I wonder what other measures might be used to determine the scope, complexity, and other challenges that SCOTUS faces, and whether there are other interesting trends? I have a feeling that maybe the workload hasn’t decreased, but rather, there are other interesting factors at work here.


    1. Perhaps. I made this intending to show the trend, not to explain why the trend exists. You’re right — that I don’t know. It might be because there is more settled law now than before. It might be that the court is more deferential to the circuits in recent years. I’m sure there’s an explanation that’s been studied by court experts in more detail. I just didn’t have it when making this quick chart. Thanks for your comment!

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