Second-Order Proof Rules

31 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2009 Last revised: 28 Mar 2010

See all articles by Michael S. Pardo

Michael S. Pardo

University of Alabama School of Law

Date Written: 2009


Proof rules in law dictate when facts have been proven. They do so by specifying a level of proof such as by a preponderance of the evidence, by clear and convincing evidence, or beyond a reasonable doubt. The rules function to serve two goals: accuracy (minimizing errors) and fairly allocating the risk of error. I argue that these rules fail to serve their goals, and I propose and argue for second-order proof rules that will better align decision-making with these goals. The second-order rules have the potential to improve not only factual decision-making at trial but also decisions implementing procedural rules that depend on judgments about the sufficiency of the evidence. These include summary judgment and judgment as a matter of law in civil cases and sufficiency challenges by criminal defendants.

Keywords: preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, rules, standards, error allocation, error distribution, probability, abduction, inference to the best explanation, sufficiency of the evidence, summary judgment, judgment as a matter of law, Jackson v. Virginia

Suggested Citation

Pardo, Michael S., Second-Order Proof Rules (2009). Florida Law Review, Vol. 61, 2009; U of Alabama Public Law Research Paper No. 1389865. Available at SSRN:

Michael S. Pardo (Contact Author)

University of Alabama School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

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