Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Activist of Them All?

Corey Yung

Corey Rayburn Yung is a Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law. His scholarship primarily focuses on sexual violence, substantive criminal law, and judicial decision-making. Yung’s academic writings have been cited by state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. Before Yung began his professorial career, he served as an associate for Shearman & Sterling in New York and clerked for the Honorable Michael J. Melloy of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

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6 Responses

  1. Bobo Linq says:

    Very nice work. Just one comment:

    The caption of your chart is a little confusing. In the text, you say “my average activism score is -10.40%.” And the scores are all negative percentages. But your caption says “Activism Differential (10.40% average).” The positive percentage in the caption is confusing. I think this should read “Activism Differential (-10.40% average.)”


  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    That’s not the only confusing thing. Differential compared to what? What does zero mean? Is a positive score possible?

    Although I assume the way the scale is defined may make mathematical sense, it is not at all an intuitive communication tool. The direction of absolute infinite increase is in the direction of less activism, though obviously there must be a zero point to activism. Similarly, one might expect that activism is relatively unbounded in theory (e.g., a judge might be an anarchist), yet the more activist scores seem to converge to zero. Probably you can fix this by a simple mathematical manipulation of the definition of your score, such as adding an absolute number to all scores, inverting a proportion, etc. It would be good to have a bigger absolute value indicate more activism.

  3. Corey Yung says:

    Hi Bobo,

    Oops. Thanks for catching that. I have corrected the chart. I was using a positive value scale until I presented at Law and Society and most people agreed it made more sense for the scale to be negative. I forgot to change my average number to a negative number.

    Hi A.J.,

    The differential was described in a previous post in my series. It is the differential between reversal rates in cases using a deferential and non-deferential standard of review. You are right that it is not the best way to communicate the data. Eventually, I will scale all of the scores (probably between 0 and 100). However, until I have data from all of the circuits, I cannot construct a complete scale since I don’t know the highest and lowest score yet. Since this is just my preliminary data, I decided to use my raw scores.


  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    Since the data may change in time over the years, maybe the scoring according to highest and lowest would need to be constantly tweaked? A simple manipulation like

    new score = -1/(raw score)

    would achieve the communicative goal of aligning higher activism with bigger absolute (and positive) magnitude, and wouldn’t need updating even if by some quirk we got some very activist judges someday.

    Given that your current scores range from -0.0365 to -0.3516, the new scores would range from 2.844 (for Wilkinson) to 27.397 (for Posner) (NB: no percent signs).