My da|ra Login

Detailed view

metadata language: English

Massachusetts Superior Court Files, 1859-1959

Resource Type
Dataset : administrative records data
  • Hindus, Michael S.
  • Hammett, Theodore M.
  • Hobson, Barbara M.
Other Title
  • Version 1 (Subtitle)
Publication Date
Free Keywords
civil law; convictions (law); court cases; courtroom proceedings; courts; criminal justice system; criminal law; disposition (legal); lawsuits; legal systems; nineteenth century; political history; social history; trials; twentieth century
  • Abstract

    This dataset contains data about case records created between 1859-1959 in the Massachusetts Superior Court (and its predecessors) for two Massachusetts counties. Part 1 contains data for 1,952 criminal cases with 52 descriptive variables, including: type of crime, year crime was committed, pleas, sentences, appeals, size of file, and demographic characteristics of victim and defendant (e.g., gender, status, residence, and occupation). Eighteen variables describe and rate each case's historical interest. Part 2 contains data on 1,968 civil (law, equity, and divorce) cases, with 82 descriptive variables, such as: relationship between parties, type of complaint, relief sought, disposition, relief granted, number of claims, damages awarded, size of file, and demographic characteristics of plaintiff and defendant (e.g., gender, status, residence, and occupation). Ten variables describe and rate each case's historical interest. In both data files, criteria for historical interest coding include: (1) inherent interest, such as offenses that are not routine (e.g., white-collar crimes, sexual crimes, and serious felonies), parties who are inherently interesting (e.g., famous persons, institutional defendants, and law enforcement personnel), and legal proceedings that are inherently interesting (e.g., alleged violations of prosecutorial or judicial discretion), (2) contexts that are inherently interesting, and (3) extraordinary documentation, such as those that shed light on the legal system (e.g., pardons or letters from citizens' committees), shed light on social history (e.g., the testimony of a woman who moved to the city and inadvertently ended up in a brothel), provide legal/procedural information (e.g., the details of search or a technical challenge to an indictment), and describe public or political history (e.g., milk inspection or zoning laws).
  • Methods

    ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection: Created variable labels and/or value labels..
  • Table of Contents


    • DS0: Study-Level Files
    • DS1: Criminal Cases
    • DS2: Civil Cases
Temporal Coverage
  • 1859 / 1959
    Time period: 1859--1959
Geographic Coverage
  • Massachusetts
  • United States
Sampled Universe
Massachusetts Superior Court cases between 1959-1969.
(1) Random sampling was used to code the case files by means of computer-generated random docket numbers. (2) Stratified probability sampling was employed by choosing equal numbers of cases from ten evenly spaced cohort years. The sample was comprised of 1,968 civil (law, equity, and divorce) cases and 1,952 criminal cases from Suffolk and Hampshire Counties in Massachusetts. Cases were drawn from only two counties in order to have numbers from each type and cohort year adequate to yield meaningful results. Suffolk, an urban county, and Hampshire, a rural county, were chosen because they represent two basic kinds of environments in which court business might differ. Civil cases were separated from criminal cases because they represented qualitatively different sorts of entities.
2010-05-14 SAS, SPSS, and Stata setups have been added to this data collection.2006-01-18 File CB7776.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
This version of the study is no longer available on the web. If you need to acquire this version of the data, you have to contact ICPSR User Support (
Alternative Identifiers
  • 7776 (Type: ICPSR Study Number)
  • Is previous version of
    DOI: 10.3886/ICPSR07776.v2
  • Bularzik, Mary J.. Sex, Crime, and Justice: Women in the Criminal Justice System of Massachusetts, 1900-1950. Dissertation, Brandeis University. 1982.
  • Hindus, Michael Stephen, Hammett, Theodore M., Hobson, Barbara M.. The Files of the Massachusetts Superior Court, 1859-1959: An Analysis and a Plan for Action. A Report of the Massachusetts Judicial Records Committee to the Supreme Judicial Court.Boston: The Court. 1979.

Update Metadata: 2015-08-05 | Issue Number: 3 | Registration Date: 2015-06-30

Hindus, Michael S.; Hammett, Theodore M.; Hobson, Barbara M. (1984): Massachusetts Superior Court Files, 1859-1959. Version 1. Version: v1. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.