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Variable Name
Spaeth Name
3 [ view ]

This variable indicates the opinion, if any, that the justice wrote. It appears in the Justice Centered Datasets only.

Because determination of whether a justice wrote an opinion is no simple matter, rules must be formulated.

1. A justice authors no opinion unless he or she specifies a reason for his or her vote. A bare citation to a previously decided case or a simple statement that the author concurs or dissents because of agreement with a lower court's opinion suffices as an opinion

2. Where a justice specifies that the opinion applies to an additional case or cases, the opinion is counted as so many separate ones. Thus, the opinions of Brennan and Marshall in Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, also apply to Williams v. Brown, 446 U.S. 236. Hence, each of these opinions is counted as though it were two separate opinions.

3. When a justice joins the substance of another justice's opinion, without any personal expression of views, that justice is listed as joining the other's opinion (see variables firstAgreement and secondAgreement) and not as an author unless he or she also writes an opinion.

Thus, in United States v. Havens, 446 U.S. 620, Justices Stewart and Stevens are listed as joining Brennan's dissenting opinion notwithstanding that the pertinent language reads: "Mr. Justice Brennan, joined by Mr. Justice Marshall and joined in Part I by Mr. Justice Stewart and Mr. Justice Stevens, dissenting." 446 U.S. at 629. The opinion contains two parts of roughly equal length. Failure to list the latter pair as joiners would have required that they appear as dissenting without opinion, a manifestly inaccurate result. Similarly, Justice White's language in Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, at 545: "I join the opinion of the Court but with the reservations stated by my Brother Blackmun in his concurring opinion," is not listed as as opinion by White. He rather appears as joining Blackmun's concurrence. Conversely, where a justice, in his or her own words only partially agrees with one or more opinions authored by others, he or she is listed as an author. Two examples of Justice Stewart illustrate: "Mr. Justice Stewart dissents for the reasons expressed in Part I of the dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice Powell." (Dougherty County Board of Education v. White, 439 U.S. 32, at 47) "Mr. Justice Stewart concurs in the judgment, agreeing with all but Part II of the opinion of the Court, and with Part I of the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Stevens." (Jenkins v. Anderson, 447 U.S. 231, at 241).

4. When two or more justices jointly author an opinion, an entry will so indicate. Joint authorship, however, does not include per curiam opinions.
1 justice wrote no opinion
2 justice wrote an opinion
3 justice co-authored an opinion
Identification Variables
Background Variables
Chronological Variables
Substantive Variables
Outcome Variables
Voting & Opinion Variables

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