Cato’s phenomenal year at the Supreme Court

by Walter Olson on June 27, 2013

This year, the Cato Institute went 15-3 before the Supreme Court, counting argued and decided cases (and not counting Perry, which was resolved on standing rather than merits).

That’s pretty phenomenal. By way of comparison, in this listing of greatest American sports teams, the legendary 1961 New York Yankees were 109-53; the Chicago Bulls of 1995-96 were 72-10; and the 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings were 51-12. Sandy Koufax’s 1963 season had his best win-loss record at 25-5.

And that’s the kind of year we’ve had in the Cato legal department.

P.S. And here’s Ilya Shapiro with a more detailed post including a list of cases. He notes that of the Court’s closing trio of very high-profile decisions, Cato was “the only organization to file briefs supporting the challengers on each one (Fisher v. UT-Austin, Shelby County v. Holder, Windsor v. United States & Perry v. Hollingsworth).”


1 A proud Canadian 06.27.13 at 10:15 am

Enjoy reading this site, but would like to point out a small error in your sports stats. The 2001-2002 Red Wings were actually 51W 17L 10T. Their best season was 95-96 when they were 62-13-7 for a total of 131 pts. If I am not mistaken, the best post expansion season (1967) record is the 76-77 Montreal Canadiens – 60-8-12 for a total of 132 pts, which gives them a slightly better W/L percentage then you (not including ties). Still a great achievment on your part. Congratulations

2 Allan 06.27.13 at 10:53 am

It is easy to prevail when the game has an institutional bias toward your side. A Pop Warner team could be the Baltimore Ravens with the right referees on the field.

3 Eponymous Nicholas 06.27.13 at 12:58 pm

Yeah, that record isn’t so much like the Yankees or the Bulls, it’s more like the Globetrotters: it’s easy to prevail when the referees are part of an institutional conspiracy to win every time.

4 Walter Olson 06.27.13 at 2:25 pm

“Ahhh, you know all these cases are fixed… It’s just a racket anyway.” Are you the one I pass who’s always muttering to himself on the park bench across from the court?

5 Allan 06.27.13 at 3:10 pm

Now, come on Mr. Olson. Do you really believe that Cato would have done as well with the Warren court or if O’Connor and Souter had not retired?

I am not saying it was fixed. I am saying that SCOTUS’s current line-up is currently pre-disposed to take a conservative viewpoint (although the DOMA/Prop 8 decisions would likely still have resulted in Cato “victories”).

6 Walter Olson 06.27.13 at 3:23 pm

Well, I was actually thinking of Nicholas as the park bench mutterer, so it’s welcome to know that his fix/conspiracy theory isn’t yours.

7 Levi 06.27.13 at 3:59 pm

How does a conservative bench help the Cato Institute any? Libertarians are not conservatives.

8 Eponymous Nicholas 06.27.13 at 5:20 pm

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the conservative majority on the court is particularly conservative compared to, say, the previous couple generations of the conservatives on the court.

9 Ben 06.28.13 at 12:03 am

“it’s more like the Globetrotters: it’s easy to prevail when the referees are part of an institutional conspiracy to win every time.”

Damned justice, it has a libertarian bias…

10 Steve 06.28.13 at 11:11 am

Explain to me again how walter is cheering the demise of ATS but was for US intervention in military escapades based on supposed human rights concerns elsewhere? Oh ya – one benefitted the oil companies one way, the other the other. Situational ethics at its finest. Go on, walter.. cheer, cheer in triumphalist glory about that and other suits and flippantly compare this to sports victories.

Let’s just remember what Kiobel was all about, shall we: The Nigerian plaintiffs, who now live in the United States, claimed that an oil company in Nigeria provided food, transportation, and compensation to government forces as they beat, raped, robbed, and killed protestors concerned about the environmental damage caused by the company’s operations.

But, you know, making sure those people don’t get justice based on a legalistic technicality is better than the super bowl times the world series times sex with twenty supermodels.

11 Walter Olson 06.28.13 at 11:36 am

This post does seem to bring ‘em out, doesn’t it? I’m still trying to figure out where I’m supposed to have announced “for US intervention in military escapades based on supposed human rights concerns elsewhere.” (I don’t think he got that impression by checking Cato’s foreign policy work, which has been relentlessly and consistently critical of such interventions.) As for the Kiobel case, I will note that all nine Supreme Court justices agreed the case did not belong in American courts, even while disagreeing on the reasons why. Still, it’s always good to be reminded that not all readers are well-disposed and well-informed.

12 Steve 06.28.13 at 12:52 pm

Walter: I do not doubt for a moment that the SCOTUS made the right decision based on American law–that’s their job. However, when the law so clearly diverges from the universal common good, I believe there is a higher duty at play. At the end of the day, Walter, the CATO work there was for big corporations who provably engaged in unconscionable practices and then basically used a combination of corruption and national judicial boundaries as a means to avoid accountability. This is nothing to be proud of, much less for an honest person to have worked for.

13 Walter Olson 06.28.13 at 1:33 pm

Shorter verbatim Steve: “the right decision based on American law … is nothing to be proud of, much less for an honest person to have worked for.” I think we may need to go on differing on that.

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