Standards of Proof Revisited

16 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2008


This essay focuses not on how factfinders process evidence but on how they apply the specified standard of proof to their finding. The oddity that prompts speculation is that the common law asks in noncriminal cases only that the fact appear more likely than not, while the civil law seems to apply the same high standard in these cases as it does in criminal cases. As a psychological explanation of the cognitive processes involved, some theorists posit that the bulk of factfinding is an unconscious process, powerful but dangerous, which generates a level of confidence against which the factfinder could apply the standard of proof. But this foggy confidence-based theory fails because standards of proof should, and factfinders arguably do, concern themselves with probability rather than confidence. Psychology also cannot explain the divide between common and civil law because the real explanation likely lies in the different goals that the two procedural systems are pursuing through their standards of proof.

Keywords: civil procedure, comparative law, evidence, standards of proof

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Clermont, Kevin M., Standards of Proof Revisited. Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1321029, Emotion in Context: Exploring the Interaction between Emotions and Legal Institutions Conference, University of Chicago Law School, May 2008, Vermont Law Review, Volume 33, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Kevin M. Clermont (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-5189 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

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