Kyle Gerlach, rising 3L, earns first place in national competition

7/7/2014  - 

 Questions were flying recently when the respected website SCOTUSblog announced that a team from Capital University Law School had won first place in its 2014 Supreme Court Challenge. Just who, exactly, was on this victorious team, identified only by the name “In Merit the Win?”

It turned out that the “team” consisted of a single, insightful CapLaw student: rising 3L Kyle Gerlach. Gerlach prevailed over teams from all over the country in the contest, which required competitors to correctly predict the outcome of 6 specified certiorari petitions and the winner, vote spread and position of each justice on 6 selected cases accepted for argument before the United States Supreme Court. (Another rising 3L Capital Law student, Jason Griffin, ranked 33rd in the contest,)

Gerlach, who is Articles Editor of the Capital University Law Review, learned about the competition from signs around the Law School and decided to give it a go. He quickly coined the team name “In Merit the Win,” a play on the title of his favorite movie, the Spencer Tracy classic “Inherit the Wind.”

Then, the hard part began. “You make your picks in March and then have to wait and wait and wait, to see how you do,” he said. Ranked #3 in the final weeks, Gerlach got an email when the term was over on June 30 telling him that his correct prediction of the Court’s decision in American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo had put him over the top. As the first place student Gerlach gets a check for $3,500.

Gerlach said his strong track record resulted partly from research, partly from luck, and partly from his studies at Capital. 

“There were two patent cases this year – and before I entered I knew nothing about patent law,” he explained, “but I had a heads up in two others. Riley v. California, on cell phone searches, was the topic of my 1L writing paper in Professor Scott Anderson’s Legal Research and Writing Class and I picked up a few ideas on Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus by listening to Professors Susan Gilles and Dan Kobil at Capital’s annual Constitutional Law Debate.

Asked how, flying solo, he beat teams from Harvard, Columbia, and Cornell (to mention just a few), Gerlach agreed to share his tips:

1. Always predict that the Court will deny certiorari. (Since it does in the overwhelming majority of cases, denial is always a good bet.)
2. When you encounter cases in areas you know nothing about (like the patent cases assigned this year), start with the SCOTUS blog to get a plain English explanation of the controversy – then start your in-depth research.
3. And finally (the secret to his success), don’t shy away from predicting unanimous verdicts – a trend that constitutional scholars are just starting to recognize as a hallmark of the Roberts court.

Gerlach encourages other Capital students to enter in the Spring: “What have you got to lose?” he said. But watch out, Gerlach plans to enter again next year!

Check out the final results online.