Welcome to the third installment of Predictions of the 10th Justice, brought to you by FantasySCOTUS.net. The league has over 2,000 members, who have made predictions on all cases currently pending before the Supreme Court. Recently, Justice Stephen G. Breyer was asked in an interview about FantasySCOTUS.net. His response, “I don’t think I will bet on it.”
This week, the Supreme Court issued the first four opinions of the term: Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter, Alvarez v. Smith, Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Beard v. Kindler. In this feature, we will compare the forecasts for these four cases, and compare these forecasts to the way the Nine Justices voted.
In Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court unanimously. 68 Members predicted this case. 46 correctly voted for affirmance (68%), while 22 incorrectly predicted a reversal (32%). 18 Members (27%) correctly predicted that the split would be 9-0 affirm. Of the members who correctly guessed the outcome as affirm, 40% correctly predicted the split.
In Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court unanimously, with a concurrence by Justice Thomas. 176 Members predicted this case. 113 correctly predicted an affirmance (64%), while 22 incorrectly predicted a reversal (36%). 45 Members (26%) correctly predicted that the split would be 9-0 affirm. Of the members who correctly guessed the outcome as affirm, 40% correctly predicted the split.
Predictions for Beard v. Kindler and Alvarez v. Smith, a hypothesis on the scarcity of 8-1 predictions, the FantasySCOTUS.net scoreboard after the first four opinions, tips on predicting future cases, and more, after the jump.
In Beard v. Kindler, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court 8-0, with Justice Alito recusing himself. Out of 36 voting members, 13 predicted an affirmance (36%), and 23 (64%) correctly predicted a reversal. In the FantasySCOTUS program, one option exists titled “Fragmented Opinion or Less than Nine Justices Voting.” This is such a case. Only 1 member, nbrcc, correctly predicted the split would be 8-0, and that Justice Alito would not participate. Kudos!
FantasySCOTUS Tip #1: Try to predict recusals. If you predict a recusal, select the “Fragmented Opinion or Less than Nine Justices Voting.” How to predict recusals? Tougher call. Does the Justice go hunting with one of the litigants? Does the Justice own property on a beach similar to beach being considered in the current case? Though, this term if any case involves a matter that Justice Sotomayor may have considered on the Second Circuit, or perhaps Justice Alito may have considered while on the Third Circuit (that may have been the case in Beard v. Kindler), vote to recuse. Here is a freebie. Justice Stevens recused himself from Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Update your votes accordingly.
In Alvarez v. Smith, the Supreme Court dismissed and vacated the lower court 8-1. Justice Stevens wrote a concurrence joining in the dismissal of the lower court, but did not join the vacatur. 58 Members predicted this case. 36 voted for affirmance (38%), while only 22 correctly voted for reversal (62%). 0 Members correctly predicted that the split would be 8-1 reverse/vacate affirm. This was by far the most unexpected outcome. Most people thought that the Supreme Court would affirm the position taken by the 7th Circuit.
In all cases decided so far, 8-1 picks, as well as 7-2 pics, either for affirmance or reversal, are strongly disfavored. Why? Maybe members think that if an issue is so one-sided, it will likely be unanimous. Perhaps they discount the value of a lone Justice dissenting. For thoughts on a single Justice departing from the Majority, see here, here, here, and here for discussion a regarding the appropriateness of Justice Thomas’s concurrence of Justice Sotomayor’s opinion in Mohawk.
After the first four opinions, here is the Scoreboard for FantasySCOTUS.net members: