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Robert Musil

Thursday, September 25, 2003
Posted
9:57 AM
by Robert
Ninth Circuit decisions are sometimes criticized for being so inconsistent as to approach randomness. But Jim Miller points out that sometimes the problem can be the possibility that there wasn't enough randomness at that court. UPDATE: An astute, probabilistically inclined reader writes: There are 27 members of the Court. You have assumed that each member will either overturn (Y) or uphold (N) the decision, i.e. there is no probabilistic decisionmaking here. To know the probabilities, we must guess how the remaining 13 unpicked members would have decided. The following table gives the probabilities for each possible value (I hope it's readable): N...............Y................Prob(3Y)................Prob(11N!3Y)................Net.......................One out of 11.............16.............0.191453................4.00618E07............7.66995E08............13037895 12.............15.............0.155556................4.80741E06............7.4782E07..............1337220 13.............14.............0.124444................3.12482E05............3.88866E06............257157.7 14.............13.............0.097778................0.000145825...........1.42584E05............70133.92 15.............12.............0.075214................0.000546843...........4.11301E05............24313.09 16.............11.............0.05641..................0.001749899...........9.87123E05............10130.45 17.............10.............0.041026................0.004958047...........0.000203407...........4916.25 18.............9.............0.028718..................0.012749264...........0.000366133............2731.25 19.............8.............0.019145.................0.030279503...........0.00057971..............1725 20.............7..............0.011966................0.067287785...........0.000805153...........1242 21.............6..............0.006838................0.141304348...........0.000966184...........1035 22.............5..............0.003419................0.282608696...........0.000966184............1035 23.............4.............0.001368................0.541666667..........0.000740741............1350 24.............3.............0.000342....................1.........................0.00034188...............2925 Thus, if the three judges chosen were the only ones who would have halted the election, the odds against them being in the first round are 2925 to 1. Somewhat more likely is that there were 5 or 6 total who would have postponed: down to about one thousand to one. As the number who would have overturned the decision rises, the probabilities get less likely because it is so unlikely to find a unanimous panel on the other side. Hope this helps. Sounds like somebody  perhaps somebody in the Justice Department  should be asking some pointed questions of the Ninth Circuit.
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