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Ideal Justice: Mathematicians judge the Supreme Court

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1:12pm, June 25, 2003

The U.S. Supreme Court–already in the news this week for its decisions on affirmative action–is highlighted in a scientific journal. The court is driven by politics far less than Congress is, a new analysis suggests.

Lawrence Sirovich, a mathematician at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, calculated that the current Supreme Court of nine judges behaves as if it were made up of about 4.68 "ideal" judges–adjudicators who make their decisions completely independently of each other. To put that figure in perspective, Sirovich says, a court with a strict liberal-conservative divide would behave as if it had only one judge because all decisions would be determined purely by which faction made up the majority.

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