Marshall: The Supreme Court Predicting Algorithm

April 1st, 2014

In 2009, I launched, largely as a joke. Today, we have over 20,000 members making predictions about all of the cases before the Supreme Court. Building on the wisdom of the crowds, by crunching all of this data, we have been able to develop the very first Supreme Court prediction market. And it is extremely accurate. But was only the start.

The next phase, which will launch during the October 2014 Term, will usher in a revolution for quantitative legal predictions.

Meet Marshall, the Supreme Court predicting algorithm. Much like how IBM named their lead computer after Thomas J. Watson, we named our system after one of the wisest and most forward-looking Chief Justices in the Supreme Court’s history, John Marshall. Given any case that came before the Supreme Court in the last fifty years, knowing nothing more than facts available at the time of the cert grant, Marshall can offer an accurate justice-by-justice breakdown of what will happen. It is frankly unprecedented.

How does Marshall work? Building upon developments in applied machine learning, my colleagues and I have developed a robust and generalized model of Supreme Court prediction. We offer the most extensive method of Supreme Court prediction to date. Using an alternative approach as well as some novel feature engineering / feature generation, our model exceeds previous efforts to predict the outcome of cases. Further, our approach is not fixed to a single term, but is general enough to forecast cases over five decades of United States Supreme Court history (1960-2013). With more than fifty years worth of performance and a more sound methodological foundation, our results represent a major advance for the science of quantitative legal prediction and and portend a range of other potential applications than done before.

As a way of publicly testing the accuracy of Marshall, we will soon announce a tournament. The 20,000+ members of FantasySCOTUS will make predictions about the outcome of cases at the same time as Marshall. This will be our Man v. Machine, or Jeopardy v. Watson competition.

Stay tuned…