Long time coming for us but here is Version 2.01 of our #SCOTUS Paper …
We have added three times the number years to the prediction model and now predict out-of-sample nearly two centuries of historical decisions (1816-2015). Then, we compare our results to three separate null models (including one which leverages in-sample information).
Here is the abstract: Building on developments in machine learning and prior work in the science of judicial prediction, we construct a model designed to predict the behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States in a generalized, out-of-sample context. Our model leverages the random forest method together with unique feature engineering to predict nearly two centuries of historical decisions (1816-2015). Using only data available prior to decision, our model outperforms null (baseline) models at both the justice and case level under both parametric and non-parametric tests. Over nearly two centuries, we achieve 70.2% accuracy at the case outcome level and 71.9% at the justice vote level. More recently, over the past century, we outperform an in-sample optimized null model by nearly 5%. Our performance is consistent with, and improves on the general level of prediction demonstrated by prior work; however, our model is distinctive because it can be applied out-of-sample to the entire past and future of the Court, not a single term. Our results represent an advance for the science of quantitative legal prediction and portend a range of other potential applications.
We started this blog (7 years ago) because we thought that there was insufficient attention to computational methods in law (NLP, ML, NetSci, etc.) Over the years this blog has evolved to become mostly a blog about the business of law (and business more generally) and the world is being impacted by automation, artificial intelligence and more broadly by information technology.
Social science generally (and law as a late follower of developments in social science) it is still obsessed with causal inference (i.e. diff in diff, regression discontinuity, etc.). This is perfectly reasonable as it pertains to questions of evaluating certain aspects of public policy, etc.
However, there are many other problems in the universe that can be evaluated using tools from computer science, machine learning, etc. (and for which the tools of causal inference are not particularly useful).
In terms of the set of econ papers using ML, my bet is that a significant fraction of those papers are actually from finance (where people are more interested in actually predicting stuff).
In my 2013 article in Emory Law Journal called Quantitative Legal Prediction – I outline this distinction between causal inference and prediction and identify just a small set of the potential uses of predictive analytics in law. In some ways, my paper is already somewhat dated as the set of use cases has only grown. That said, the core points outlined therein remains fully intact …
The program committee for the 16th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law has just named King College London as the host for the biannual ICAIL conference. Mark you calendars for 2017 in London!