Monday, December 3, 2007

Justice O'Connor's Brain

Supreme Court Forecasting Project
This project involved a friendly interdisciplinary competition to compare the accuracy of the different ways in which legal experts and political scientists assess and predict Supreme Court decision making. Legal scholars and political scientists have engaged in much debate about why the Supreme Court decides cases as it does, but this ongoing discussion is almost always retrospective in nature -- that is, scholars apply competing explanatory frameworks to existing Supreme Court decisions from the recent or not-so-recent past.

To invert the temporal link, during the Court's 2002 term, we conducted a study where we predicted the outcome of each argued case. Two methods of prediction were used, and we compared their relative accuracy. The results of the study have been published in the May 2004 issue of the Columbia Law Review. The study was also featured in a Symposium in Persepctives on Politics. We contrasted a statistical forecasting model (based on information derived from past Supreme Court decisions and certain characteristics of each pending case) with forecasts provides by legal experts (each of whom is an expert in some area of the Supreme Court's docket and many of whom clerked at the Court).

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