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.
The crowd ended last week on a good note, with a big win in Carpenter v. US and what I can only call an amusing tie in Dalmazzi v. US. Starting with the former, the Chief Justice joined the traditionally creative wing of the Court to rule that data records kept by cell phone companies from which locations may be inferred should be afforded Fourth Amendment protections. The case was unique in that the four dissenters each wrote to share their $0.02, and outwrote the Chief, page-for-page, by roughly four-to-one. The decision will probably prove to be more important as to protections for potential evidence controlled by third parties, rather than setting a new tone for the balancing of the Fourth Amendment with the digital age, but we’ll only know after some time. But whatever the fallout, 347 forecasters in total had this case going for the petitioner getting the win, ending at 63% and being north of 50/50 since November.
As for Dalmazzi, pick your metaphor. As I noted on Twitter on the first of May, the crowd had this case as a tie for long stretches since March. Ultimately, after nearly two-hundred forecasts, the crowd was at exactly 50% at the moment the decision was “released.” It became much ado about nothing. The Court dismissed the case as “improvidently granted,” (referred to as a DIG) which means nothing more than “nevermind.” While the merits were reached on a companion case, the result for our question was a resounding no. So why the tie? Perhaps that this criminal case had nothing to do with criminal law may have sown some confusion among forecasters. Moreover, the Supremes have been breathing new life into the Appointments Clause, most recently this week in another SCOTUS decision). The meaning of the Appointments Clause is not as simple and straightforward as one might think, a meaning further obfuscated by the unique way federal law treats members of the military in terms of the civil service that had a law professor joining oral arguments whose only connection to the case was an amicus brief. With all this in mind, the crowd here excusably threw up its hands.