FantasySCOTUS and {Marshall}+ Featured in the Washington Post Front Page

October 24th, 2014

Robert Barnes has published a piece in the Washington Post about fun ways to follow the Supreme Court. We are extremely excited about his extensive coverage of FantasySCOTUS, LexPredict, and {Marshall}+.

Here are the highlights:

And while a justice’s decisions are drawn from years of legal experience, ideology, constitutional interpretation and a keen attention to facts, Josh Blackman thinks even high school students can predict the outcome. HisSupreme Court fantasy leagues let thousands of enthusiasts play along.

Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law, started his Scotus prediction site website because “I thought it would be a fun game for Supreme Court nerds.” But he was surprised at how many there were.

FantasyScotus has grown to have dozens of leagues such as “Big Dicta” and “You Can’t Handle the Ruth”–another tribute to Ginsburg, it appears–and players can compete for a $10,000 prize.

Blackman also subscribes to the theory that “the more we can understand the court, the better off we all are.” He started the fantasy league predicting Supreme Court outcomes in 2009, not really knowing who would sign up.

He estimates that 25,000 players have participated since then. Through The Harlan Institute, Blackman has created lesson plans for teachers and a prediction contest for high school students.

And this year at FantasySCOTUS, Thomson-Reuters is offering cash prizes for the player with the most accurate predictions.

Blackman will be among those playing, to some extent. Along with fellow law professors Dan Katz and Michael J. Bommarito of Michigan State University, Blackman developed a head-spinningly complex machine-learning algorithm that they say can predict Supreme Court cases at 70% accuracy.

The professors call their algorithm {Marshall}+, after Chief Justice John Marshall. Blackman is now recruiting a team of Supreme Court experts to compete against. It would be like that time the computer Watson took on the humans in Jeopardy!

But Blackman thinks the contest will be more like spring training, where he discovers in what kinds of cases {Marshall}+ excells, and those in which he (it?) falters.

For this term, at least, he expects the humans to win.

Update: The Story appears on A1, below the fold! The PDF is here.

The Washington Post