Reflection Four — Supreme Court

After meeting with the research librarians, I realized that I still had a lot of groundwork to still do on my project. I think they were right when they said to not think about our research tools until we had some solid research done.

During our first meeting, I narrowed down my project even more. Now, I will be choosing three justices to perform a topic modeling analysis on their written opinions. Based on their Martin-Quinn scores and propensity for language, I’ve chosen Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Antonin Scalia. According to their scores, Sotomayor is the most liberal justice on the current Court. She usually writes her opinions in plain language. Kennedy is now known as the “swing justice,” and has a flair for drama in his writing. Scalia is the second most conservative (with Justice Clarence Thomas as the most conservative). Scalia is known as one of the founders of the originalist theories and without a doubt is known for his distinctive and biting opinion-writing style.

But, still, with all this research and the deadline for the project approaching fast, I had to seriously focus on my tools, as well. For most of the day today, I focused on getting my web scraper code to work. Right now, it works for nearly every case from 2009 on, the year Justice Sotomayor joined the Court. The opinions that don’t work can be copy and pasted off the Internet.

All in all, I think I’ve had a productive week and learned a lot, but I think the quickly approaching project deadline may make me need to simplify my project once more. It will certainly be a stressful end to the first session of the summer, but I look forward to the challenge.

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