In this week’s column we will dig deeper, and figure out exactly how many people cheated on predictions, and whether this cheating had any impact on the results. Additionally, we will revisit five cases recently decided: Johnson v. US, Bloate v. US, Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, Milavetz, and Mac’s Shell Service v. Shell Oil.
For each case, we have recorded our outcome statistics and SMRs (standard mortality ratio). The SMR provides a method to test whether or not users perceive the Court as dominated by conservative ideology.
In Johnson, the Court in a 7-2 decision reversed the 11th Circuits decision to apply federal law to determine whether someone committed a “violent felony” for the purpose of the Armed Career Criminal Act. With a total of 304 predictions, 55% of users predicted that the Court would reverse the decision, at a 90% confidence level. 24 users predicted the correct split, while 9 users correctly predicted that Thomas and Alito would dissent. Based on the SMRs, Alito had the lowest SMR, followed by Thomas with the second lowest, supporting the conclusion that Thomas and Alito would be the minority. Additionally, both Thomas’ and Alito’s SMRs were not significantly different from 1, indicating that Roberts and Scalia “defected” from the “conservative” view. Ginsburg was the only liberal justice to not have a SMR significantly different from 1, although Breyer was close. Overall, the results reflected the formation of a large majority with 2 conscientious objections.
In Bloate, the Court issued another 7-2 decision, reversing an 8th Circuit decision holding that the delay resulting from pretrial motions was sufficiently related to an on-going trial to be excluded the time in which a trial must commence under the Speedy Trials Act. Out of 241 votes, only 22% of users predicted a reversal, with a confidence level of 99%. Only 5 users got the correct disposition and split, but no users guessed which Justices would be in the minority correctly. The SMRs indicate a very strong tendency for a unanimous decision. However, this finding is problematic because the most often predicted disposition was an affirmation. All of the conservative Justices had SMRs not significantly above 1, while the liberal Justices had extremely high SMRs. These results indicate that there was no clear conservative vs. liberal position, or that the decision was made on a basis beyond ideology. Given that Breyer and Alito were the minority, the final outcome supports this proposition.
For more analysis of the remainder of the cases, and an investigation on FantasySCOTUS cheating, read on at JoshBlackman.com.