Friday, June 29, 2012

Workshop on Formal Argument and Evidential Discovery

The proposed workshop on "Formal Argument and Evidential Discovery" -- if approved, which is likely -- will take place in Rome on one day (probably Friday) during the week of June 10 - June 14, 2013, in conjunction with ICAIL 2013. The organizers of the proposed workshop are Scott Brewer, Giovanni Sartor, and Peter Tillers. The following people have already expressed more than a passing interest in the proposed workshop: Jennifer Mnookin, Robert Burns, Ronald Allen, Philip Dawid, Burkhard Schafer, Raymundo Gama, Louis Raveson, Jane Campbell Moriarty, Rainhard Bengez, and Mark Spottswood.

The proposed workshop will deal with whether and the extent to which factual discovery differs from factual proof. The topic invites discussion of matters such as (i) abductive inference, (ii) the role of intuition, hunch, and subjective judgment in the process of discovery; and (iii) the role if any of formal argument (including, e.g., statistical methods) in discovery.

Here is ICAIL's announcement of the conference as a whole:

CAIL 2013 is heading to Rome! 

The host institution for ICAIL 2013 will be ITTIG-CNR, the Institute of Legal Information Theory and Techniques of the National Research Council of Italy. The conference venue will be located at the CNR headquarters, at Piazzale Aldo Moro 7. CNR provides world-class conference facilities and is situated in Rome's distinguished university area.

ICAIL 2013 is scheduled to take place during the week of June 10 to 14, 2013.  Conference officials will include Enrico Francesconi in the role of Conference Chair, Bart Verheij as Program Chair and Anne Gardner as Secretary-Treasurer.
We are excited about the venue for the conference, in one of Europe's and the world's great cities. Most of all, we believe the venue will broaden the appeal ofICAIL, and increase its outreach and collaborative possibilities. We hope to attract new researchers by offering a host of existing and new topics under the AI & Law banner.

The EC congratulates the Italian team that drafted its successful proposal, but also wishes to acknowledge the strong proposals submitted from three other sites as well: Paris, France; Braga, Portugal; and Poznan, Poland. This year was the first time that so many highly competitive host proposals were submitted to the Executive Committee. 

In the weeks ahead, more information will be distributed about the Conference Calls for Papers and Calls for Tutorials and Workshops, not to mention theICAIL 2013 Mentoring Program for researchers new to our community.  We will also be sharing additional information about the conference site as well as the conference Web site.  So stay tuned.  Viva l'Italia!

On behalf of the 
IAAIL Executive Committee,


Radboud Winkels, Univ. of Amsterdam, IAAIL President
Jack G. Conrad, Thomson Reuters, IAAIL Vice President
Anne Gardner, Atherton, CA, IAAIL Secretary-Treasurer


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John F. Sowa on Analogy

Many observers have said that analogy plays an important role in legal reasoning.

John F. Sowa makes the following interesting comment:

Formal reasoning is based on a disciplined use of analogy:
  • Induction:  Generalize multiple cases to create rules or axioms.
  •  Deduction:  Match (unify) a new case with part of some rule or axiom.
  • Abduction:  Form a hypothesis based on aspects of similar cases.


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Pardo on Evidence Theory

MICHAEL S. PARDOUniversity of Alabama School of Law
The past few decades have seen an explosion in theoretical and empirical scholarship exploring the law of evidence. From a variety of disciplines and distinct methodological perspectives, this work has illuminated important issues regarding types of evidence, legal rules and doctrine, the reasoning processes of judges and juries, the structure of proof, and the normative considerations underlying these various issues. This Article takes up the theoretical project writ large. Exploring the landscape of evidence scholarship, the Article examines a number of methodological and meta-theoretical questions: What would a successful evidentiary theory look like? By what criteria should assess such a theory? What is the purpose of such theorizing? What is the relationship between the theoretical and empirical projects? In exploring these questions, the Article identifies criteria by which to evaluate theorizing in this area.

To that end, the Article first identifies two considerations that underlie any theoretical account of the evidentiary proof process and its components: factual accuracy and allocating the risk of erroneous decisions. Next, it articulates and defends general criteria by which to evaluate theoretical accounts in evidence scholarship in light of these considerations. Finally, it applies the general criteria to evaluate two theoretical accounts — a probabilistic conception and an explanatory conception — and concludes that the probabilistic conception fails and the explanatory conception succeeds in light of the theoretical criteria. Along with clarifying evidence theory, the Article also clarifies the relationship between theoretical and empirical scholarship in this area.


PT: A better title might have been: "The Natures [sic] and Purposes of Evidence Theory." See, e.g., P. Tillers, Trial by Mathematics - Reconsidered & P. Tillers, Are There Universal Principles or Forms of Evidential Inference?
Cf. P. Tillers, The Structure and the Logic of Proof in Trials


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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

K-9 Savvy

How did the police dogs know?: 

  • Hat tip to Justin Bale


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A race for prestige and revenue

Brian C. Tamanaha, Law Schools Fudge Numbers, Disregard Ethics to Increase Their Ranking, Daily Beast (blog) (June 17, 2012) (the headline masks a broader critique):

Why are law schools hiding the truth? In the depths of the worst legal employment market in decades, when more than one third of recent graduates nationwide have failed to land lawyer jobs, law schools across the country still trumpet employment rates in the 90 percent range, along with glittering six-figure salaries. In response, graduates have filed fraud claims against 15 law schools around the country, with additional lawsuits in the works. Two well respected schools, Villanova and Illinois, have already acknowledged that for multiple years they claimed falsely inflated student credentials.
When called to account for their conduct, legal educators unapologetically say, “The ranking made us do it.” A pathetic excuse, to be sure, but there’s truth to it. I know because I did it too.
[snip, snip]

But ethics for the moment aside, the most harmful consequences wrought by these machinations lie beneath the surface. To increase their LSAT medians, law schools have shifted the bulk of scholarship awards away from need-based to merit-based. In other words, students from wealthy families used to pay full price, while students from less well-off families would receive scholarships. Now those who score below the median on the LSAT are the ones paying full fare, while those who score above get financial aid, whether or not they need it.
It’s a reverse-Robin Hood redistribution scheme: Since well-off students tend to do better on the LSAT due to advantages throughout their education (including their ability to afford test prep courses that improve their LSAT score), the students likely to earn the least in their careers end up defraying the educational expenses of the students who will earn the most.
This manner of allocating scholarships also systematically funnels students from wealthy families to higher-ranked schools and students from middle-class families to lower-ranked schools (you can forget about the poor). To see how this works, consider that a prospective student with an LSAT score of 171 (very good, but not outstanding) would be in the bottom half of the admitted class at Columbia, and must pay full tuition to attend; but this same student would be in the top quartile at Duke, and would receive a hefty scholarship. The student would then have to decide whether it is worth paying $210,000 to earn a law degree at Columbia (counting tuition and living expenses) versus $120,000 at Duke. Students from wealthy families would go to Columbia, reaping better job opportunities, while many students from families with modest incomes will pick Duke. This same dilemma plays out all through the law school hierarchy. Thousands of law students are put to this choice each year, the effect of which channels wealthy students upward and others downward.
What’s the upshot? It is inevitable that the elite legal positions in the coming generation—in the Supreme Court, Justice Department, corporate bar, and law professoriate—will be dominated by children of the wealthy. Pursuing prestige and revenue without heed to the consequences, legal educators are responsible for this. Yes, the rankings are a part of it, but in the end they are just numbers; human beings choose how to use—or misuse—them. The sad irony is that many law professors are liberals who claim to fight for the less privileged in society, yet through our own conduct we are further enhancing the advantages of the one percent.


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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Presidential Power

Ross Douthat, a conservative columnist, observes (in the NYTimes, June 23, 2012):

Obama campaigned as a consistent critic of the Bush administration’s understanding of executive power — and a critic with a background in constitutional law, no less. But apart from his disavowal of waterboarding (an interrogation practice the Bush White House had already abandoned), almost the entire Bush-era wartime architecture has endured: rendition is still with us, the Guantánamo detention center is still open, drone strikes have escalated dramatically, and the Obama White House has claimed the right — and, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, followed through on it — to assassinate American citizens without trial.
These moves have met some principled opposition from the left. But the president’s liberal critics are usually academics, journalists and (occasionally) cable-TV hosts, with no real mass constituency behind them.
The majority of Democrats, polls suggest, have followed roughly the same path as the former Yale Law School dean Harold Koh, a staunch critic of Bush’s wartime policies who now serves as a legal adviser to the State Department, supplying constitutional justifications for Obama’s drone campaigns. What was outrageous under a Republican has become executive branch business-as-usual under a Democrat.
N.B. I am one of those addled academics who, despite not being terribly left-wing, believes that Obama has acted unconstitutionally on major questions on perhaps a score of occasions. I genuinely believe that the civil liberties of Americans stand in peril. I also think that the scope of the President's claim of unilateral authority to make war anywhere in the world is, not only breathtaking, but also dangerous in the long run to the entire planet. And to think that Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize! (But the Nobel Peace Prize committee has made other odd choices -- for example, Henry Kissinger.) 


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