When someone brings up the empirical study of legal citation, most people think of the work Landes & Posner and Epstein & Martin.  If you’re really cool, you might even think of Dan and me, who have spent quite awhile analyzing and visualizing Supreme Court citations like those in the 3D 1080p animation below:

  These studies, including our own Supreme Court papers, focus on just one particular type of citation, however – judicial citation.  It’s important to remember that for some subjects, judicial citation means squat compared to the law on the books – statutory law.  The U.S. Tax Court is exactly one of these contexts, and we set out to analyze the statutory citation network and textual content of written decisions in this forum.

  Parsing and analyzing the Tax Court written decisions was probably one of the most interesting and challenging projects I’ve worked on.  However, I don’t want to spoil too much.  If you’re interested, go grab a copy of the journal from the Virginia Tax Review or download a copy from SSRN.  The abstract is below:

  What can empirical data tell us about the jurisprudence of United States Tax Court? Which sections of the Internal Revenue Code are most frequently cited and has recent tax legislation sparked change in the Tax Court’s decisions? This article presents an analysis of the citation practices of the United States Tax Court between 1990 and 2008. While previous citation studies focus on case-to-case citations, we modify this approach to focus on statutory citations, which better capture the nature of tax jurisprudence. By applying techniques from computer science, we collect and analyze more than 11,000 decisions and 244,000 statutory citations authored by the United States Tax Court between 1990 and 2008. Our approach includes both a static and longitudinal analysis of the most cited Internal Revenue Code sections. In addition, we carry out a network analysis of these case-to-statute citations to uncover patterns in citation practices, concept relationships, and legislative acts. This article answers the call for greater empiricism in tax scholarship and paves the way for future research on Tax Court jurisprudence.

Bommarito, Michael James, Katz, Daniel Martin and Isaacs – See, Jillian, An Empirical Survey of the Population of United States Tax Court Written Decisions (March 20, 2011). Virginia Tax Review, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1441007