Have there been any Supreme Court cases that have been decided based on statistical evidence?

If so, which ones; and what was the evidence presented?

In 1897, Oliver Wendell Holmes (before he became a Supreme Court judge) had said in a speech at Boston University: ``For the rational study of the law---the man of the future is the man of statistics and the master of economics. It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV.''

However, in the 120+ years which followed Holmes' speech, it has been observed (see, for example, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-supreme-court-is-allergic-to-math/) that the Supreme Court has not been very receptive to statistical/quantitative evidence.

I would like to know of any counterexamples to that observation.

Thank you.

  • 1
    I can think of lots of times that it has ignored overwhelming statistical evidence. I can't think of a counterexample, although I am not omniscient and may be unaware of one.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 9, 2020 at 4:08
  • 2
    Note that what that article complains about isn't exactly statistical evidence so much as the Court is unwilling to adopt statistical tests. The Supreme Court is almost always weighing questions of law, not fact.
    – Ryan M
    Dec 9, 2020 at 8:17
  • 1
    To put what @RyanM said, SCOTUS usually is the last appellant court. Courts of Appeal in the U.S. do not look at new evidence but rather the appropriate application of the law. The only cases where SCOTUS would likely hear evidence would be cases which they have Original Jurisdiction over (these are defined in the Constitution) as they are the trial court in these matters.
    – hszmv
    Dec 9, 2020 at 12:41

1 Answer 1


This is not, unfortunately, a direct answer to your question. Nonetheless, it might be of interest to you.

The US Census has been the subject of extensive legal wrangling, ending in the Supreme Court more than once. The challenge by a coalition of US states to the validity of the 1990 US Census was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court in 1996. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York had heard extensive evidence from statistical experts, including David Freedman who testified as an expert for the US government, but the SCOTUS decision itself sidestepped the statistical issues.

A point of some historical interest is that a guy called Rudolph Giuliani, then mayor of New York, deplored the decision of the Supreme Court, saying that the decision effectively cheated New Yorkers out of money that ought to have been theirs.

  • Anther case where it was side-stepped, although in that case SCOTUS did decide that "greenhouse gases fit well within the CAA's capacious definition of air pollutant." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Fizz
    Dec 10, 2020 at 0:06

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