FantasySCOTUS Update: Hurst v. Florida and Bruce v. Samuel

January 12th, 2016

Today the Supreme Court decided two cases: Hurst v. Florida and Bruce v. Samuel.

In Hurst v. Florida, the Court found parts of Florida’s death penalty violated the Sixth Amendment. The vote was 8-1, with only Justice Alito voting to affirm.

Both the FantasySCOTUS crowd and {Marshall}+ predicted the Court would reverse, but neither got the split. The Crowd forecasted a unanimous reversal, although at 65% Justice Alito’s was the closest to an affirm. Scalia and Thomas were around 80%. The Algorithm accurately predicted Roberts and Kennedy as strong reversals, but Scalia, Thomas, and Alito hovered around a 60% for an affirm.


The second decision, Bruce v. Samuels, unanimously affirmed the D.C. Circuit in a Prison Litigation Reform Act case.  The unanimous affirmance is a very rare case, and one that always throws us for a loop. Usually the Court takes a decision to reverse. However, in this case, there was a massive Circuit split. As Justice Ginsburg notes in a footnote:

Courts of Appeals have divided on which of these two approaches §1915(b)(2) orders. Compare Atchison v. Collins, 288 F. 3d 177, 181 (CA5 2002) ( per curiam); Newlin v. Helman, 123 F. 3d 429, 436 (CA7 1997), overruled in part on other grounds by Lee v. Clinton, 209 F. 3d 1025 (CA7 2000), and Walker v. O’Brien, 216 F. 3d 626 (CA7 2000); Lefkowitz v. Citi-Equity Group, Inc., 146 F. 3d 609, 612 (CA8 1998); Christensen v. Big Horn Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs, 374 Fed. Appx. 821, 829–833 (CA10 2010); and Pinson v. Samuels, 761 F. 3d 1, 7–10 (CADC 2014) (case below) (adopting per-case approach), with Whitfield v. Scully, 241 F. 3d 264, 276–277 (CA2 2001); Siluk v. Merwin, 783 F. 3d 421, 427–436 (CA3 2015); and Torres v. O’Quinn, 612 F. 3d 237, 241–248 (CA4 2010) (adopting per-prisoner approach).

That the Court affirmed 9-0 was only a factor that they took a case from the D.C. Circuit they agreed with.

Here, both the crowd and the algorithm absolutely blew it. The crowd forecasted a 6-3 reverse, and the algorithm predicted a 7-2 reverse. However, as a highlight, 27 out of the 126 users who predicted this case called a 9-0 affirm. Also, all of the forecasts for the algorithm were below 60%, indicating there wasn’t a strong sentiment about this case either way.