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The October 2012 Season of FantasySCOTUS Starts Today – Grand Prize: All-Expenses Paid Trip to Washington, D.C. for Constitution Day 2013

In honor of the start of the Supreme Court’s term today (the First Monday in October!), the Harlan Institute’s OT 2012 season begins today. We are offering offering three contests this season: Fantasy Predictions, Fantasy Blogs & Badges, and our Virtual Supreme Court–the grand prize is an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. for Constitution Day 2013 for the winning team. Teachers–sign up today for our free programs.

Fantasy Predictions

FantasySCOTUS Predictions challenges students to make predictions about pending Supreme Court cases and write analytical blog posts exploring the different constitutional issues in the cases.

After studying cases currently pending before the Court with these lesson plans, students will make predictions about how each of the nine Justices will vote. Based on the individual student predictions, each class will submit a set of group predictions for each case. All predictions will be due by March, 31, 2012.



Fantasy Blogs & Badges

In addition to making predictions, each class will write a series of analytical blog posts for each case.  By signing up your class for FantasySCOTUS, you will automatically receive a free WordPress blog hosted at the Harlan Institute. All Blog posts will be due by March 31, 2013.

The winner of the FantasySCOTUS Blogs & Badges Contest will be determined based on the class with the most points from badges on May 15, 2015.

The top class in the United States will be awarded the “Chief Justice” Prize, an iPad.


Virtual Supreme Court

The Harlan Institute has partnered with The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) to host the inaugural Virtual Supreme Court competition. This competition offers teams of two high school students the opportunity to research cutting-edge constitutional law, write persuasive appellate briefs, argue against other students through video chats, and try to persuade a panel of esteemed attorneys during oral argument that their side is correct.

This year the competition focuses on Fisher v. University of Texas.

ResolvedIs the Fourteenth Amendment Color-Blind?

The members of grand-prize winning team, the Solicitors General of FantasySCOTUS, will receive a free trip, including airfare and one night of hotel accommodations, to Washington, D.C. to attend the ConSource Constitution Day celebration on September 17, 2013.


Nate Silver Writes on New York Times Blog About The Wise High Schoolers Who Predicted On FantasySCOTUS

Who came out looking better than the pundits? Interestingly, it may be high school students.

High school students participating in a Supreme Court “fantasy league”sponsored by the nonprofit Harlan Institute had been about evenly divided in predicting the court’s decision, with 57 percent thinking the mandate would be overturned and 43 percent saying it would be upheld.

Nor did the oral arguments in the case, which substantially affected the conventional wisdom, alter the students’ opinions much. Instead, they had seen the case as a tossup from the beginning.

I suspect these students would have been wise enough to avoid some of the counterintuitive speculation about the decision’s political effects that you will now be seeing on television.

Read more at 538 Blog.

Final FantasySCOTUS.net Predictions for Health Care Cases #SCOTUS

In approximately twelve hours, the Supreme Court will decide the consolidated Health Care Cases. Here are our final predictions.

The mandate is going to be struck down, and it will be severed.

The threshold question is whether the suit is permitted by the Anti-Injunction Act? The 11th Circuit held that suit was not barred by the AIA.

  • 94.28% predict that the suit can proceed, notwithstanding the AIA.
  • 5.72% predict that the suit will be barred by the AIA
Since oral argument, the numbers have increased somewhat as to whether the AIA will serve as a jurisdictional bar.
The most critical question is whether the individual mandate exceeds Congress’ powers, and is unconstitutional. The 11th Circuit held that the mandate exceeded Congress’s powers and is unconstitutional.

  • 57.14% predict that the Court will find the mandate unconstitutional.
  • 42.86% predict that the Court will uphold the mandate.
  • Of particular interest, 58.1% of members predict that Justice Kennedy will vote to strike down the mandate. Chief Justice Roberts, as well as Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito are all predicted to strike down the mandate at 72.1%, 82.9%, 89.0%, and 83.4% respectively.
Following oral argument, the percentage of voters who think the mandate will be struck down as jumped from about 51% to 57%. There has been a lot of movement in the last week or so.
Assuming the mandate is unconstitutional, the Court will next consider whether the mandate is severable from the remainder of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The 11th Circuit held that the mandate was severable.

  • 68.67% predict that the Court will sever the mandate from PPACA.
  • 31.33% predict that the Court will find that the mandate is not severable.
  • Of note, 67.5% of members predict that Justice Kennedy will vote to find the mandate severable.
The severability numbers have dropped, while the mandate unconstitutional numbers has increased. This tells me that people think that the entire ACA is going down.
The final question is whether the expansion of Medicaid is constitutional. The 11th Circuit found that the expansion was in fact constitutional.

  • 74.38% predict that the Court will uphold the Medicaid expansion.
  • 25.62% predict that the Court will find the Medicaid expansion unconstitutional.

This is really the sleeper issue. The numbers dropped right after argument, but have leveled off.

A Note From Our Friends at ConSource To The Winners of the ConSource Badge

Dear ConSource Badge Winners,

Thank you for participating in the FantasySCOTUS program and congratulations on earning the ConSource badge. The blog posts you submitted display a great amount of effort and creativity.  It is clear that you put active thought into the meaning of the First Amendment as it pertains to student speech both inside and outside of school.  What was particularly impressive was your use of examples from your own school policies, as well as facts drawn from J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District and Layshock v. Hermitage School District.

As students, you should always strive to improve your writing. One way to construct a more compelling legal argument is to cite additional source materials outside of the case law itself. For example, a number of you reference the idea that citizens of the United States should have the freedom to voice their own opinions, no matter the content. To explore the extent to which this broad statement is true, you may want to look to the history of the First Amendment. Start with a direction citation to the First Amendment’s broad and absolute terms.

From there, you can seek out the meaning of those words by looking at the ideas the Framers discussed and debated before they settled on the language “Congress shall makes no law […] abridging the freedom of speech.” For instance, the Framers often referred collectively to “the rights of Conscience,” which were closely intertwined with both the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech. Take a look at the Senate’s debates on the Bill of Rights amendments, in letters exchanged between the Amendment’s Framers, and in the state ratification records to determine if the freedom of conscience is broader or different than the freedom of speech. Consider why the Framers might have decided not to use the language “freedom of conscious.” Would swapping the word “speech” for “conscience” impact the rights of students to express themselves inside and outside of school?

With these questions in mind, and the tools available to answer them on the ConSource website and elsewhere, you will be able to further develop your already excellent legal arguments. If you would like to continue working on your legal analysis of student speech, please feel free to email me at Julie.Silverbrook@consource.org. I am always delighted to work with students to help you develop your legal and historical reading and writing skills.

Keep up the good work!

Julie Silverbrook

Executive Director

The Constitutional Sources Project

Harlan Institute’s Work On Big Data Featured in ABA Journal

The ABA Journal featured a post on Big Data and the Law, and featured the work of the Harlan Institute:

Databases of historical legal information are being built that could help lawyers calculate the odds of winning a case and how to craft the arguments.

• The nonprofit Harlan Institute, which promotes interest in the Supreme Court, is also investigating quantitative legal prediction. It’s an outgrowth of a Supreme Court fantasy league launched by lawyer Josh Blackman. He suggests in a law review article that it could be “quite conceivable for a bot to crawl through all of the filings in Pacer … and develop a comprehensive database of all aspects of how each court works.”

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