Academics in various disciplines have been developing sophisticated tools for analyzing the dynamics of group decision making for many years. The leading figures in this research have been mostly law and politics professors, along with a number of economists, and their methods have included data analytics, game theory, organization theory and behavioral economics, to name just a few.
Although these tools have become increasingly common in the business world, they’re not especially well known in the appellate bar. And that’s odd, because much of this research speaks directly to the essence of what we do as appellate lawyers. All litigators are in the business of persuading judges. But trial lawyers, with few exceptions, are tasked with persuading one decision maker at a time. Appellate lawyers face a different challenge – persuading a majority of a panel – typically anywhere from three to seven, or once in a great while nine or more judges. Understanding both the preferences of the decision makers, and what internal and external influences might constrain them from acting on those preferences, is a key concern.
We at Sedgwick founded the Illinois Supreme Court Review to contribute towards changing that – to bring the power of data analytics, and ultimately other academic tools for studying group decision making, to the rigorous study of the decision making of the Illinois Supreme Court.
The Review will be a different kind of blog. For the past several years, authorities on the future of social media have been predicting that it’s only a matter of time before the rigorous scholarship that has been published in law reviews for generations begins to transition to blogs. We think that evolution is inevitable, and we hope to contribute to it with the empirical research we’ll be posting here.
So while the conversation about last week’s appellate arguments or yesterday’s new opinions continues over at the Review’s sister blog, The Appellate Strategist, at the Review we’ll take a longer-term view, seeking new insights into the Court’s decision making in civil litigation based upon the entire span of what one might call the Court’s recent history, from 2000 to today. Our analysis will rest on a foundation of an enormous data library, encompassing dozens of data points from each of the more than six hundred civil decisions the Court has handed down during our period of study. We’re not aware of a comparable up-to-date database on the decisions of a state Supreme Court anywhere.
We hope you’ll join us.
 Spoiler alert: yes, there will be math (and footnotes). But at all times, we’ll make sure that the math is accessible to everyone.