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Supreme Court market lets you put your money where your hunch is

WASHINGTON—A North Carolina professor has created his own stock market to predict the next Supreme Court nominee, and you can participate.

Kevin McGuire's Supreme Court Futures Market lets you buy and sell play-money shares in any of 15 potential nominees to fill retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's spot. The higher the price for a potential nominee's share, the more likely it is that President Bush will choose him or her, McGuire's theory goes.

McGuire, a Supreme Court expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and other political researchers said simulated markets such as these were valid and powerful means of prediction. That's because they're sensitive to new information and unbiased when it comes to real-world political situations. Investors are likely to overlook their own political attitudes to make money, academics said. McGuire thinks it will work even when the money isn't real.

He cited the Iowa Electronic Markets, which has predicted every presidential race correctly since 1988 with a smaller margin than most polls, as his inspiration.

"I wondered if that kind of device would transport to another area," McGuire said.

Each trader gets $3,000 in online play money to buy shares in one of 15 potential nominees or a 16th choice: "none of these."

Registration is free, and players can buy and sell using their exclusive user names and passwords. The site is at www.scotusmarket.com.

Once President Bush nominates someone to replace O'Connor, the market will close, McGuire said. Those who picked the winning nominee can cash in and move their shares into the next market. That market speculates in whether the Senate Judiciary Committee will recommend Bush's nominee for a full Senate vote.

Those who chose the wrong nominee—and new players—will start in the new market with $3,000 in play money.

On Monday, shares for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who's considered a front-runner to replace O'Connor, were trading at $18. Appeals Court Judge Edith Brown Clement was trading at $20.

McGuire opened his market July 11 and now has more than 100 participants. He's since opened two more court-prediction markets: One speculates whether Chief Justice William Rehnquist will still be serving when the court opens its 2005-2006 session; the other asks the same about Justice John Paul Stevens.

"A lot of people see it as a fun opportunity to channel their interest in politics in a creative way," McGuire said.

The president's tight control over information coming out of the White House on potential nominees makes McGuire's first market volatile and unpredictable. That's especially true when compared with past markets in presidential nominees.

"In the case of a presidential election you know who the candidates are and what they stand for," McGuire said. "You know about information that makes them look good or bad."

In the case of the Supreme Court, a leak from the White House or the Senate about a possible nominee can cause wild fluctuations, he added. Once someone's nominated, however, McGuire's markets' predictive power will improve.

"The market will do a much better job accounting for outcome during the nomination because we have much more steady and reliable information to make decisions," McGuire said.

For those who'd rather bet with real money, there's an alternative, www.tradesports.com, a British company that's accepting wagers on the next Supreme Court nominee.

"Our payoffs are strictly intellectual," McGuire said.

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Judge Edith Brown Clement of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans led all Supreme Court candidates named on the Supreme Court Futures Market as of Monday afternoon, trading at $20.

"None of these" was far ahead of her, however, trading at $53. The other 14 named candidates stood as follows:

_Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: $18.

_Judge Emilio Garza, of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals: $10.

_Judge Michael McConnell, of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver : $8.

_Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.: $8.

_Judge J. Michael Luttig, of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals: $7.

_Former Assistant U.S. Solicitor General Miguel Estrada: $5.

_Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court Janice Rogers Brown: $4.

_ Judge Edith Jones, of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals: $4.

_Judge John Roberts, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit: $4.

_Judge Samuel Alito, of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia: $3.

_Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson: $3.

_Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, former Texas Supreme Court justice: $2.

_Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson: $1.

_Judge William Pryor of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta: 1.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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