by Ryan Adler
Ryan Adler is a Superforecaster and Senior Consultant for Good Judgment who specializes in legal analysis for Good Judgment’s question writing team. He also administers the SCOTUS Challenge on Good Judgment Open, a collaboration between SCOTUSblog and Good Judgment that facilitates probabilistic thinking about court decisions. Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SCOTUS brought its term closer to conclusion with the release of two opinions this morning. One case closed another of our First Amendment questions, this time Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky. By a vote of 7-2, this time with Breyer joining Sotomayor in dissent, the Court ruled that Minnesota’s ban on political apparel at polling places violates the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. This made only Chief Justice Roberts’ third opinion, with no concurrences and only Justice Sotomayor’s dissent rounding out the release. Compared to some other cases this term, this was a straightforward case of a vague statute falling to a facial challenge. Appropriately enough, this Flag Day saw to it that Minnesota voters could henceforth wear a lapel pin of their choosing without fear of it being called out for wearing something “political” by poll workers.
However, this was not the crowd’s best day. Participating forecasters saw the Court going the other way, giving reversal an only 35% chance. While participants initially settled in the 70%-80% range, the consensus marched lower and lower. So why the big miss? A few possibilities come to mind. For starters, this question launched the last day of February, which was also the day when oral arguments were held. As I noted on our blog last month, Supreme Court cases generally see zero actionable news between oral arguments and decision day (US v. Microsoft being this term’s glaring exception with the passage of the CLOUD Act and subsequent effective dismissal of the case). While this might have made deliberating on a forecast simple, with all information out from the start, it may also have sapped some enthusiasm from people who might otherwise have participated. The question saw only 119 forecasters put down 193 forecasts, with just over half (60) the forecasters making their (at least) initial mark in the first week after launch. Moreover, other cases this term have garnered many more column inches of coverage than our humble Mansky, such as Trump v. Hawaii & Masterpiece Cakeshop v. CO Civil Rights Commission. Whatever the reason, we have seven case questions to go, two weeks left in the term, and nine Justices who I am sure are itching for summer recess.