by Ryan Adler
Greetings forecasters and Court watchers! With the first Monday in October fast approaching (which happens to be the first day of October this year), I am pleased to announce that the 2018 SCOTUS Challenge is now live! As with any new term, cases on the docket run the spectrum, and our first forecasting questions are no different.
Weyerhaeuser Company v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service (oral arguments scheduled for 1 October): While I’m sure you’ve hear of frogs, you may not have heard about the dusky gopher frog. The question is whether the US Fish and Wildlife Service went too far by declaring land on which the ailing amphibians aren’t found to be “critical habitat.” This isn’t the first time Chief Justice Roberts has had the chance to opine on the fate of another endangered frog.
Gundy v. United States (oral arguments scheduled for 2 October): This case regards the fate of a convicted sex offender who failed to properly register under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). However, the case at bar doesn’t really have anything to do with sex crimes. It’s all about whether Congress gave too blank a check to the attorney general to create rules governing particular classes of sex offenders. While the nondelegation doctrine is probably not going to trend on Twitter anytime soon, this is a case that could fundamentally alter the foundations of the administrative state.
Madison v. Alabama (oral arguments scheduled for 2 October): Modern Eighth Amendment cases often have a peculiar set of facts, and this is no exception. Vernon Madison was convicted (more than once) of killing a Mobile police officer in 1985. However, due to a series of strokes, he has no memory of the crime for which he was sentenced to death. Does that violate the constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment? The justices are due to chime in.
Air and Liquid Systems Corp. v. Devries (oral arguments scheduled for 10 October): If you have watched television at all this century, you’ve probably seen commercials like this seeking out cancer victims who were exposed to asbestos. This case is about who all can be held liable for asbestos exposure-related illness and death. Firms like Air and Liquid Systems Corp. manufactured “bare metal” products for the US Navy that were fitted with asbestos-containing materials further down the supply chain. The widows of two seamen think the firm should be liable. The firm, not surprisingly, disagrees.
Of course, all of this is in the current shadow of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. The US only has eight Justices right now, and whether a ninth will be in the courtroom on October 1 remains an open question. In any event, the gears of justice will grind forth, and we want to know which way you think these cases (and more to come) will go. Enjoy!
Ryan Adler is a Superforecaster and Director at Good Judgment who specializes in legal analysis for Good Judgment’s question writing team. He also administers the SCOTUS Challenge on Good Judgment Open, which invites probabilistic thinking about court decisions. Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.