Probabilities and Proof: Can HLA and Blood Group Testing Prove Paternity?

32 Pages Posted: 30 May 2009

See all articles by Ira Mark Ellman

Ira Mark Ellman

Arizona State University College of Law; Arizona State University (ASU) - Department of Psychology; Center for the Study of Law and Society, Berkeley Law, University of California, Berkeley

David H. Kaye

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law; Arizona State University - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law - School of Life Science

Date Written: 1979

Abstract

Advancing medical technology has produced tests which offer the opportunity to resolve paternity disputes with more accuracy than unaided traditional evidentiary techniques are likely to obtain. Because the biology underlying the statistical evidence in paternity cases offers a wealth of previously unavailable information which is certain to revolutionize the adjudication of paternity suits, but it is important that the courts not become so mesmerized by these new sources of evidence that they neglect to subject them to traditional principles of evidence applicable to all testimony. Additionally, for some time scholars have disagreed on the proper application of a probability formula called Bayes' Theorem to questions of proof. Because the evidence yielded by modern serologic tests is inherently quantitative and probabilistic, questions concerning the use of Bayesian calculations in the trial setting will thus have to be decided in these paternity disputes.

This article undertakes a critical analysis of the use of probability calculations in paternity cases and of the broader issues implicit in this growing practice. Although the statistical information derived from Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA) testing should be admissible in paternity cases, the article concludes that no expert, no matter what skill level, can correctly testify to any quantified probability that the defendant in a given case is in fact the father. It reviews the difficulties associated with traditional evidentiary techniques in paternity cases, the nature and appeal of HLA and other modern serologic techniques, and the statistical reasoning which necessarily underlies expert testimony. After reviewing the problems associated with statistical identification evidence, the article concludes by endorsing more suitable alternatives to the methodology currently used in paternity litigation.

Keywords: Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA) Testing, Probability Evidence, Paternity

Suggested Citation

Ellman, Ira Mark and Kaye, David H., Probabilities and Proof: Can HLA and Blood Group Testing Prove Paternity? (1979). New York University Law Review, Vol. 54, 1979. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1411902

Ira Mark Ellman

Arizona State University College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Phoenix, AZ
United States
480-965-2125 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.asu.edu/HomePages/Ellman/

Arizona State University (ASU) - Department of Psychology ( email )

950 S. McAllister Ave
P. O. Box 871104
Tempe, AZ 85287-1104
United States

Center for the Study of Law and Society, Berkeley Law, University of California, Berkeley ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720-2150
United States

David H. Kaye (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law ( email )

University Park, PA 16802
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.personal.psu.edu/dhk3/index.htm

Arizona State University - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law - School of Life Science ( email )

111 E Taylor St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.personal.psu.edu/dhk3/index.htm

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