Thousands of hours of searchable Supreme Court audio

In what contexts has the Supreme Court discussed torture in the last 20 years? How many times were the framers mentioned in oral arguments during the Warren Court period as compared to the Rehnquist years? Soon, you’ll be able to search through the text and audio of thousands of hours of Supreme Court argument going as far back as the Warren Court.

In the forthcoming Oyez database, political scientists Timothy Johnson (Univ. of Minnesota) and Jerry Goldman (Northwestern), along with Brian MacWhinney of Carnegie Mellon and Mark Liberman of Penn, will be making available searchable digitized audio and transcripts of thousands of hours of U.S. Supreme Court argument. According to Johnson’s post on Empirical Legal Studies, the database will include all audio the Court has released beginning with the Warren Court up through the present day. He continues:

Simultaneously, we are appending sentence aligned transcripts to the audio so that the text and audio are fully searchable.

Additionally, we have created software that will allow users to search, code, and save data from the arguments or opinion announcements. We envision these data being used across disciplines — from political science, to law, linguistics, history, and rhetoric. Already we have collected cases back through the early 1990s and we already have audio files back to 1979. These are in the process of being digitized and appended to their transcripts.

The Oyez Project has been making audio recordings of the Court’s proceedings available via the Web for many years, but the new database will make the data much more accessible to scholarly analysis.

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