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How Relevant is Jury Rationality?

David A. Hoffman

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law; Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School

University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 2, 2003

This essay reviews "Punitive Damages: How Juries Decide" by Cass Sunstein, et al. The book provides a good example of a recent trend: the use of behavioralist research to justify surprisingly paternalistic legal reforms.

While critics of behavioralism often contend that its theoretical foundations are weak, this approach is unlikely to prove an effective rejoinder in the new debate about what kinds of paternalism are made permissible by human "irrationality". A better approach: (1) notes the lack of a nexus between behavioralism and the supposed emergent necessity of paternalist reforms; and (2) suggests that juror unwillingness to apply cost-benefit formula provides the true motivating force for the new paternalism in law and economics. Rather than asking if jurors act rationally (and punishing them if they will not), we should instead question what law and economists mean when they use the word "rational" as an initial matter.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 23

JEL Classification: K1

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Date posted: June 4, 2003  

Suggested Citation

Hoffman, David A., How Relevant is Jury Rationality?. University of Illinois Law Review, Vol. 2, 2003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=386921 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.386921

Contact Information

David A. Hoffman (Contact Author)
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )
1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-0612 (Phone)
Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School
127 Wall St
New Haven, CT 06520
United States
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