Although Supreme Court justices may be the arbiters countless Constitutional issues, they all are human—which means they are fallible. As Erwin Chemerinsky points out in his book The Case Against the Supreme Court, it is important not to see justices as strict interpreters of the Constitution, but people with opinions and experiences that shape their judgments. Of the many kinds of decisions it makes, the Court looks at cases in which the law and social justice intersect. That’s why it is essential to remember that those appointed to the Court have their own views on social issues and the law, which may lead to different, and many times irreconcilable, interpretations of the Constitution.
By doing a textual analysis of Supreme Court opinions, and maybe transcripts of arguments, I hope to shed some light on how justices talk about social issues. This project combines my passion for law, politics, rhetoric and technology. To present my research, I plan on creating a website that uses charts and blog posts to talk about the questions presented and track my progress. This way, it is accessible to both the general public and academics. I will use textual analysis tools, and read articles on different types of cases and social justice issues in order to look at how to approach a textual analysis and figure out what questions to ask about the rhetoric used by justices.
One big challenge will be narrowing the project’s scope. I will need to pick a time period for the Court, preferably a modern one, or look at one or two series of precedents for specific issues. To find out the best ways to limit the scope of my research, I will consult academics and texts. I am flexible on the scope of my project, but I am not flexible on making it accessible to anyone interested and answering questions about how the way justices talk about these issues may glean information on how they interpret the law (or, if their rhetoric does not glean information on how they interpret the law, what does it tell us?). Answering these questions on narrowing its scope will be the first step in figuring out how to have a project that is both interesting and manageable to be completed within the six-week time frame.