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Beyond Context: Social Facts as Case-Specific Evidence

48 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2010 Last revised: 28 Oct 2010

Gregory Mitchell

University of Virginia School of Law

Laurens Walker

University of Virginia School of Law

John Monahan

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: March 4, 2010

Abstract

Experts often seek to apply social science to the facts of a particular case. Sometimes experts link social science findings to cases using only their expert judgment, and other times experts conduct case-specific research using social science principles and methods to produce case-specific evidence. This article addresses the scientific and legal merits of these two approaches and argues for the use of methodologically rigorous case-specific research to produce “social facts,” or case-specific evidence derived from social science principles. We explain the many ways that social fact studies can be conducted to yield reliable case-specific opinions, and we seek to dispel the view that litigation poses insurmountable barriers to the conduct of case-specific empirical research. We conclude that social fact studies are feasible for both plaintiffs and defendants, with or without special access to the parties involved in a case, and provide much sounder conclusions about the relevance of social science to a litigated case than do alternatives based on expert judgment.

Keywords: law and social science, expert evidence, social facts, social frameworks

Suggested Citation

Mitchell, Gregory and Walker, Laurens and Monahan, John, Beyond Context: Social Facts as Case-Specific Evidence (March 4, 2010). Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2010-14; Emory Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1564724

Gregory Mitchell (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-243-4088 (Phone)

Laurens Walker

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-3834 (Phone)

John Monahan

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-3632 (Phone)

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