A half point is all that separated Indiana University Maurer School of Law’s Bro Bono team from first place and ultimate bragging rights in a competition where teams were asked to predict how U.S. justices would vote on cases this term.
And a tie-breaker question is what allowed the four recent graduates to come in second instead of third in the competition that consisted of more than 80 teams. The team learned of the results this week.
Bro Bono was led by Andrew Proia, who came up with the idea to enter a team in the Bloomberg Law and SCOTUSblog Supreme Court Challenge, the second year for the competition. He asked Kyle Fields, Nathan Herbert and Eric Silvestri – whom he knew from working together on moot court – to join the team that Nathan and Eric later dubbed “Bro Bono.”
And what about that clever team name? Herbert says not only is it a silly pun on “pro bono,” but it captures the sense of friendship among the four members, all 3Ls at the time of the challenge.
“The second reason that we chose our team name was to distinguish ourselves as students at a public law school. [T]he landscape of higher education is largely bifurcated between private and public schools, where the former carries greater prestige,” Herbert explained in an email. “That fact is all the more pronounced in legal education (e.g., only three of the top 14 law schools in America are public schools).”
The four Maurer students also attended public schools for their undergraduate studies.
“In choosing our team name, we accepted the characterization of public school students as academically less serious, party-type people. We hoped that by calling ourselves Bro Bono we could convey an appropriate humility about our roots and that if we succeeded, we could also help to change the narrative about public school students.”
The challenge asks teams comprising law school students to decide whether the Supreme Court would grant or deny six specific petitions and also determine the outcome on six merit cases that would be argued in March and decided by the court. Teams had to say what party was going to win, how many justices were going to make up the majority opinion and how the individual justice would vote in each case. Their predictions had to be in before arguments were held.
Proia said Bro Bono predicted four of the merit cases completely correct and only one of the petitions wrong. The team guessed correctly on the high-profile suit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, thanks to Silvestri.
Bro Bono split up the cases and petitions so that each member focused on a few, doing research to make predictions on the outcomes. Then, the members would get together to discuss the cases, get feedback, and make an overall agreement on how to proceed on each case.
Silvestri was responsible for United States v. Windsor, and Proia said because of his work, the team bumped into second place. Bro Bono also correctly picked on who would win in Hollingsworth v. Perry and the number of justices voting, but missed on the alignment. Proia thinks the Perry decision also helped propel the team into the Top 3.
In fact, Bro Bono was tied for third and their second-place finish was earned based on the tie-breaker question on how much time would elapse between the first case argued and the first actual decision. Bro Bono guessed 30 days; the actual time was 60 days.
The result: the team will receive $1,500 for their second-place finish, plus a $1,000 bonus for beating the SCOTUSblog expert team.
Proia said that money could help pay off student loans. Herbert plans on buying Maurer professor Luis Fuentes-Rohwer a beer. Then he said he’s going to buy the jersey of former Indiana University basketball player Victor Oladipo from whatever team drafts him. The Orlando Magic drafted Oladipo Thursday.
Herbert says the team hasn’t done much bragging – yet. After they learned of their placement, they called each other to share in their excitement, but then it was back to bar review.
And where is Bro Bono now? Proia currently works as a postdoctoral fellow in information security law & policy at the Maurer law school. Silvestri will be working at Chapman & Cutler in Chicago in the general litigation department, and Herbert will join Mayer Brown in Chicago as an associate in the banking and finance practice. Proia was unsure of Fields’ employment status.