LAW, FACT, AND SCIENCE IN THE COURTS

Although a fully-developed theoretical framework within which the courts' use of scientific knowledge can be evaluated must await further research and refinement, this article undertakes to present a speculative and exploratory analysis of some of the issues involved. Part I of the article briefly reviews the problems that inhere in traditional methods of transmitting technical information to the tribunal, and examines the alternative of informal independent investigation offered by the doctrine of judicial notice. Part II is concerned with the less well explored process of applying scientific knowledge to the resolution of questions posed in a lawsuit. It seeks to indentify the sources of error and inconsistency that stem from the need to apply the generalized "laws," theories, and findings of science to the infinitely varied factual particulars of litigation, and from the law's injection of value and policy considerations with which the scientific knowledge "simpliciter" is not usually concerned. The impact of the way in which rules of law are formulated is examined, and criteria for more effective use of the expert, whether as witness, neutral advisor, or decision- maker, are suggested. Part III examines the respective provinces of court and jury--of "lawmaker" and factfinder"--in reaching a decision. There may be warrant, both in doctrine and in practical advantage, for the court to assume a considerably more active role as decision-maker where the question turns in whole or in part on scientific knowledge. Action by the court will not only produce more effective decisions, as a rule, in individual cases; it is also the "sine qua non" for gradually assimilating scientific advances into the common law as transmissible doctrine. Finally, the conclusion of the article adds a word about certain large questions that are implicit throughout, regarding the impact of the institutional setting of adjudication in the courts upon meaningful goals of reform.

  • Corporate Authors:

    Columbia University

    367 Franklin Avenue
    New York, NY  United States  11010
  • Authors:
    • Korn, H L
  • Publication Date: 1966-6

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00083891
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 8 1975 12:00AM