Beyond Context: Social Facts as Case-Specific Evidence

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

See all articles by Gregory Mitchell

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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