Sometimes, they can be downright spooky.
Anderson flags an all-time great reporter fumble on a legal story, quoting Miss. College prof Matt Steffey on the Fifth Circuit’s attempt to predict the ultimate ruling from the Mississippi Supreme Court on the damages caps:
Steffey said the part of the Fifth Circuit’s opinion that referred to the disposition as an “eerie guess” means the court is supposing what state law will be.
Anderson turned up on Lexis five instances of “Eerie guessing” in the federal district courts, four in the 5th circuit. Westlaw has seven, all but a Utah case in the Fifth Circuit (and only one, signed by Judge Pepper, from a Mississippi district judge).
For laymen, it’s “Erie guess,” after Erie Ry. v. Tompkins,
a major United States Supreme Court case directing the federal courts when to look to state law to resolve issues and how to go about it. An Erie
guess involves a federal court having to predict what the state law might be when there are no state cases that directly answer a question.
It’s not spooky, it’s a train.