Feature about me, FantasySCOTUS, and Harlan Institute in the February Edition of the ABA Journal

January 24th, 2011

The February 2011 edition of the ABA Journal published an article about me, FantasySCOTUS, and the Harlan Institute.

Pending High Court Decisions Fan Interest in Fantasy League:

The words fantasy player and U.S. Supreme Court have never had a reason to be heard in the same breath, but for any law geek who’s ever dreamed of serving as the 10th justice, your fancy now can be fulfilled. The year-old website FantasySCOTUS lets aspiring Supreme Court justices, legal pundits and those of you with a tad too much time on your hands predict the outcome in pending U.S. Supreme Court cases.

Complete with YouTube videos and social media plug-ins, the site found at fantasySCOTUS.net is the brainchild of 26-year-old lawyer Josh Blackman, a law clerk for a federal judge in Pennsylvania and a teaching fellow at Pennsylvania State University’s Dickinson School of Law. He founded the site after graduating in 2009 from George Mason University School of Law.

“It was really spontaneous,” Blackman recalls. “We were waiting on the Citizens United cases. I asked a friend, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if Vegas put odds on the Supreme Court?’ ” That triggered Blackman, who has a computer science background, to build FantasySCOTUS. When it launched in November 2009, he expected just a few hundred “hardcore law nerds” to play. But within 24 hours, the site had 1,000 users. “It was totally viral. I didn’t spend a penny on marketing.”

My favorite quote:

By the end of last term, more than 5,000 professors, law students and appellate litigators were playing FantasySCOTUS. The game is especially popular among law clerks. But not to Blackman. “I’m not smart enough,” he explains. “The game is really kind of hard. You have to understand esoteric ERISA cases, for example.” Top players are about 70 percent accurate.

The article also discusses the Harlan Institute, and our educational programs to teach students about the Supreme Court and the Constitution:

An aspiring academic, Blackman also has developed a version of the website for high school students atfantasySCOTUS.org. The offshoot was unplanned, but Blackman says he developed it after teachers began asking for it. So far an estimated 200 teachers and 1,000 students play.

To support that offshoot, Blackman founded the Harlan Institute and spent his summer developing lesson plans. The Harlan Institute also places volunteer attorneys into classrooms using FantasySCOTUS. “We’ve created a savvy way for attorneys to do pro bono,” Blackman says. “They can even use Skype and volunteer right from their desks.”