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05 April 2007


Sara Benesh

Just a note to be sure you are aware of Spaeth's new database, which includes a sample of cert denials -- you may be able to avoid coding cases altogether!

The database can be found here:


(The Expanded Burger Court Database is the relevant one.)

Mark Hall

Here are two articles that discuss the difficulties in, and techniques for, training law students to code reliably:

Reed C. Lawlor, Fact Content Analysis of Judicial Opinions, 8 JURIMETRICS J. 107, 109-10 (1966-1968).
Charles A. Johnson, Content-Analytic Techniques and Judicial Research, 15 AM. POLITICS Q. 169 (1987).

They do not, however, disucss how to find and retain good coders.


As a law student and a graduate student pursuing a master's in economics who is interested in empirical work myself, I would suggest that you utilize grad students from your university's world renown economics department. Although the cost is apparently hiigher, you are certain to get a student well trained in data analysis and interpretation (and probably one with knowledge of software programs).

Joe Doherty

On large projects (3+ RAs) I have solved the problem by hiring one social science graduate student to be the "super-RA." S/He helps me design the data collection and then supervises the law students for/with me. In this situation the additional cost of the grad student is a marginal bump on the total RA budget. It gives me extra time to do more substantive work, and is good training for them. As for why they cost more, is it possible that you've got a fee remission hidden in the cost?

I have also had large projects where it is impractical to hire a grad student, and my experience is identical to yours. Much supervision, bad data, etc. There's no substitute for talent.

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