Monday, May 14, 2007

Tillers Tries To Be Rationale

I have tried to use Rationale to diagram part (but only part!) of the inference problem presented by United States v. Robinson, 544 F.2d 611 (2d Cir., 1976) & United States v. Robinson, 560 F.2d 507 (2d Cir., 1977) (en banc). See http://tillers.net/ev-course/materials/robinson.html (scroll down about 4/5 of the page). Here is the most comprehensive map I produced of the problem in Robinson:

Note that my representation of the Robinson problem is incomplete -- both by necessity and by design. For example, I make no attempt to portray how questions about matters such as the number of revolvers, the number of .38 caliber revolvers, or the legality and illegality of the possession of revolvers in New York City, New York State, or beyond affect the argument about the problem in Robinson. (By the way: What is "the" [inference] problem in Robinson?) Perhaps I will ask my students this fall to develop their own maps. Do you think that doing so would amount cruel and unusual punishment of students who are taking a basic Evidence course?

• Some people (William Twining, David Schum, Terry Anderson) have been courageously asking their students to do this sort of thing -- to map arguments from and about evidence -- for literally decades. I have used inference maps (on a limited basis) in my basic course in the law of evidence, but I have not asked my students to produce their own maps in the basic Evidence course. I am a bit ashamed of this. In my defense: (my) long experience in academia suggests that traveling solo in this fashion in the American law school world presents hazards. But perhaps now I am in a position to withstand student complaints? Or perhaps not. (In any event, an ingratiating classroom manner usually counts for far more than does the substance of the stuff one teaches. The parallel to quackery in expert testimony is unmistakable. [A pleasing courtroom manner will take an "expert" far. {Am I too cynical?}])
• The maps one makes by using Rationale or other tools for mapping (inter alia) evidential inference vividly illustrate why it is useless and impossible to talk (coherently) about the law of evidence or about proof in adjudication (or pretrial or prelitigation investigation) without talking about chains and webs of evidence and inference.