FantasySCOTUS: The Final Countdown and Final Predictions

June 24th, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010 will be a day that will lives in SCOTUS fame for quite some time. At 10 a.m., the Supreme Court will hand down the remaining opinions in Bilski v. KapposFree Enterprise Fund and Beckstead and Watts, LLP v. Public Company Accounting Oversight BoardChristian Legal Society v. Martinez, and most importantly McDonald v. City of Chicago. Across the street at 12:30 p.m., Elena Kagan will begin her confirmation hearing. Supreme Court overload.

In this post, we provide final predictions for those four huge cases. Additionally, we will provide an overview of how accurate FantasySCOTUS predictions were for the cases decided in June, including Stop The Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, City of Ontario v. Quon, New Process Steel v. National Labor Relations Board, and Doe v. Reed.

In Free Enterprise Fund, 67% predict the Supreme Court will affirm, and find that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s creation of accounting review board is constitutional. Based on the statistics, it looks it will be a unanimous decision. In Bilski 78% of our members are predicting that the Supreme Court will affirm the Federal Circuit. However, this seems to be one of the more lopsided contests, and the Justices are much more likely to be unanimous in this case than in Free Enterprise Fund. As I predicted, based on opinion assignments, Justice Stevens will likely write this one.

Predictions for McDonald and CLS after the jump at

In McDonald, 70% of predictions say that the Court will reverse the 7th Circuit, and incorporate the Second Amendment against the states. The decision is likely to be 5-4, along ideological lines. Christian Legal Society will be a close decision, as only 55% of predictions say that the Court will affirm the 9th Circuit. There is a slim possibility that Breyer will join the conservative majority.

UPDATE: For detailed predictions of all of the possible scenarios in McDonald v. Chicago, check out this post.

Our users fared quite well for predictions for the June cases. In the following chart, we have listed the outcome of the case, confidence intervals for the outcomes, the number of users who guessed the correct split, and our majority ratios for each justice (along with the ratio’s confidence interval).

Case Stop The Beach Holder Quon New Process
Outcome Affirm








Outcome CI +/-9.03 % (99%) NS +/-10.14 % (90%) NS
Correct Split 34 9 5 4
Roberts 0.83 +/- .17 1.26 +/- .38 1.11 +/- .33 1.33 +/- .53
Stevens 1.81 +/- .47 1.35 +/- .41 1.40 +/- .46 1.5 +/- .64
Scalia 0.73 +/- .16 1.12 +/- .36 1.05 +/- .33 1.17 +/- .5
Thomas 0.7 +/- .16 1.03 +/- .34 1.11 +/- .33 1.33 +/- .53
Ginsburg 2.78 +/- .58 1.39 +/- .41 1.28 +/- .44 1.36 +/- .61
Breyer 2.81 +/- .58 1.45 +/- .42 1.40 +/- .46 1.29 +/- .59
Alito 0.71 +/- .16 1.21 +/- .37 1.18 +/- .35 1.11 +/- .49
Sotomayor 2.84 +/- .58 1.55 +/- .44 1.44 +/- .47 1.36 +/- .61

Our members accurately predicted Doe v. Reed. Doe v. Reed, decided yesterday morning received 67% of predictions indicating an affirm. The majority ratios showed that Thomas would objection. This was the precise result, as the Court affirmed the 9th Circuit, with Justice Thomas penning the lone dissent.

In Stop the Beach, the question was whether or not rebuilding the coastline amounted to the taking of littoral rights (a property owner’s right to the oceanfront on the land they own). The Florida Supreme Court held that this was not unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court agreed in a unanimous opinion (except Stevens, who recused himself due to owning property on the Florida coastline). 77% of our users predicted that the court would affirm, while 34 of the 152 users got the correct split (another 20 predicted a unanimous decision, but forgot to remove Stevens). Looking at our majority ratios, the liberal justices were indicated to have a strong tendency to join in with the conservative justices for the decision. Out of all of the liberal justices, Stevens had the lowest ratio, caused by his recusal but also indicating that he would have joined the unanimous opinion. Overall, our users nailed this case.

Another contentious case for this term is Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which discusses whether or not laws governing the aiding of a designated foreign terrorist organization were unconstitutionally vague. Although the 9th Circuit determined they were, the Supreme Court reversed the decision in a 6-3 opinion, with Stevens joining Kennedy and the conservative justices. A majority of our users predicted the reversal, but it was not enough to be statistically significant. However, 9 users did guess the correct split, which accounts for about 15% of user predictions for this case. Our majority ratios indicated that the decision would fall along partisan lines, although both Breyer and Sotomayor had ratios significantly higher than one while Stevens did not. Although our standardized majority ratios tend to pick up on coalition formation, they only represent a likelihood as derived from outsiders’ opinions. Overall, this case presented a tough issue at the difficult fringe of jurisprudence, where various rights and government interests are balanced.

Our third case in this set is Quon, which asks whether or not Fourth Amendment protections extend to an employee’s text messages sent via an electronic device owned by an employer. The Ninth Circuit determined that there was an expectation of privacy, and the search was unreasonable in scope, thus making it unconstitutional. The justices, in another unanimous decision, reversed the lower court’s decision. Slightly over 60% of our users predicted the correct outcome, which was a statistically significant majority. 5 users predicted that it would be unanimous, coming in under 10% of total predictions for this case. Our majority ratios indicate that the decision would be along ideological lines, with no justice having a ratio significantly different from one. Based on a quick analysis of the case, the ratios are easily explained in that the conservative and liberal answer is there is no expectation of privacy in a device which an employer owns and pays for. Any discrepancy between the two ideological groups in this case is the result of users projecting more division into the court when it comes to jurisprudence in general.

Although New Process Steel v. National Labor Relations Board is arguably procedural, this case is contentious because it involves the power of an executive agency, labor relations, and politics in general. In this case, the National Labor Relations Board has only been operating with two out of five leadership positions filled, and the plaintiffs the challenged the authority of the two-member board due to a quorum requirement. The 7th Circuit allowed the two-member board’s decisions to stand, which the Supreme Court overturned in a 5-4 decision along ideological lines. 56% of our users predicted that the Court would reverse the decision, but the low number of overall predictions for this case prevented it from being statistically significant. Only 4 users predicted the correct split, indicating that pure ideological divisions are not default positions when users are attempting to guess the outcomes of cases. Our majority ratios did show that it was likely that ideological division would occur, but Stevens’ ratio was not significantly different from 1, so his joining the majority was not expected from a statistical standpoint. Overall, it seems that there is a division on how literally to interpret the rules governing executive agencies, and when they should be relaxed to accomplish some goal [links to offshore drilling decision maybe).

This post was co-authored by Josh Blackman and Corey Carpenter.