Since 1959 the Supreme Court has heard an average of 2.6 Indian law cases each term out of a recent average of approximately 80 cases. This paper attempts to identify which factors may be influencing the outcome of Indian law opinions by creating a new dataset of 156 Indian law cases and testing twelve potentially explanatory variables using logistic regression analysis.

Unexpectedly, the paper concludes that Chief Justice may play a determinative role in Indian law opinions – exceeding the importance of the office in most other analysis of the Court. This is true even though the Chief Justice has changed four time over the course of the study, indicating that it is the office of Chief Justice, and not the individual holding the office, that has the observed effect.

Overall the logistic regression model was able to explain more than 70% of the variance in the outcome of Indian law opinions, indicating that the independent variables provided a robust survey of the problem. In addition to the role of the Chief Justice, other important variables when it comes to explaining the Supreme Court’s behavior on Indian law questions include whether the tribe was the appellant, whether the case was decided by a single vote, whether a jurisdictional dispute between a state and tribe was at the center of the controversy and whether the case arose from Alaska or Hawaii.

Read the full article on SSRN

Christensen, Grant, Predicting Supreme Court Behavior in Indian Law Cases (June 15, 2018). Available at SSRN: or


Grant Christensen

UND School of Law

Grant Christensen is an Associate Professor of Law at UND School of Law. He joined the University of North Dakota in 2015. Prior to joining the faculty at UND, Professor Christensen was an Assistant Professor at the Charlotte School of Law, a visiting professor at the University of Oregon School of Law and a lecturer of law at the University of Toledo College of Law. 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *