Constitution Daily

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Some odd Supreme Court health care clues

June 27, 2012 by Scott Bomboy


As we get down to decision day for the Supreme Court and health care, some truly odd predictions are appearing in the media, and in some well-known publications, too.

Offbeat forecasts were taken to a new level in 2010, when an octopus made such predictions globally chic.

Paul the Octopus predicted eight consecutive World Cup soccer matches, causing a frenzy in Europe and dismay in Germany when he successfully predicted his own country would lose to Spain in the semifinals.

Sadly, Paul is no longer with us, and a slew of animals deployed at this summer’s Euro 2012 soccer tournament all failed as soothsayers.

So without a proven oracle, we turn to the media and researchers for some unusual predictions.

Computer facial analysis of the Supreme Court faces

Business Insider has an analysis of the “mood” of the nine Supreme Court justices based on a scientific analysis of their facial features in recent photographs.

The analysis from Sensory Logic, a facial coding firm, showed that the liberal justices looked happiest, as did Chief Justice John Roberts.

For the record, there are four justices who are considered liberal, three who are strongly conservative, and two who are usually conservative. Roberts falls into the last category.

That makes for five "happy" judges, including four liberals. Draw your own conclusions.

Deciphering Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comments

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg got a lot of publicity when she made comments at a public appearance earlier this month that had analysts scratching their heads.

Ginsburg is on the liberal wing of the bench, but her cryptic remarks had journalists guessing if she was dropping hints or just having fun with the press.

“Those who know don’t talk. And those who talk don’t know,” she said at an event hosted by the American Constitution Society in Washington.

Ginsburg also gave a preview of the final two weeks of the court’s term in June.

“It is likely that the sharp disagreement rate will go up next week and the week after,” she said.

That was a sign to some watchers of Ginsburg’s unhappiness with the health care verdict.

Why Scalia went on an anti-Obama rant

Justice Antonin Scalia is on the staunchly conservative wing of the bench, and he caught court watchers off guard on Monday when he sharply criticized President Obama as he read his opinion in the Arizona immigration case.

"Are the sovereign states at the mercy of the federal executive's refusal to enforce the nation's immigration laws?" Scalia said.

Some observers noted that Scalia’s words were targeted at the immigration majority opinion crafted by Justice Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts, the two likely swing votes in the health care reform decision.

But Scalia has a history of being contentious when reading dissenting opinions.

The Supreme Court could push the decision back until October

Tony Mauro from the National Law Journal put out one of the more interesting forecasts this week: It’s possible the Supreme Court could push the health care decision back until October, right before the election.

Mauro said that on a paid-subscription website that costs $499 a year, so we don’t have a detailed analysis of his rationale.

But from we can gather from other media types, Mauro said it is possible the justices could ask for more arguments, or there could be a lack of agreement among the justices.

Mauro qualifies his argument with the following phrase: “But almost nobody thinks that will happen this time. Thursday will be the day.”

An octopus could predict the Supreme Court better that the ‘experts’

A fun story on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog points out that the so-called experts on Supreme Court decisions are really bad at predicting them--worse than an octopus or a random coin toss, in some cases.

Wonkblog's Sarah Kliff, with the help of a sharp-eyed reader, points to a pair of academic surveys that show academics, Supreme Court clerks, and other experts are barely ahead of a coin toss in their overall accuracy in predicting Supreme Court cases.

The one area where all the experts struggled was with cases about economic activity--in those cases, according to a study by Washington University, court watchers were correct less than 50 percent of the time. Coincidentally, "economic activity" is at the center of the argument around the health reform case.

At a health care panel discussion at the National Constitution Center earlier this month, Yale's Jack Balkin said the same thing when we asked him to make a prediction about the court's decision.

Balkin said every prediction he makes about Supreme Court decisions is usually wrong.

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