Redesigning the Science Court
62 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2014
Date Written: February 16, 2014
Scientific evidence is a field in crisis. The validity and reliability of forensic techniques have been criticized by nearly every actor in the legal community -- by attorneys, judges, the legal academy, and even the National Academy of Sciences -- and high-profile cases of scientific evidence gone awry have garnered national attention. Policymakers have suggested many solutions to the scientific evidence crisis, including a controversial proposal to remove complex scientific cases from state and federal dockets and to hear those cases instead in a specialized “science court.”
Science court proposals face one substantial hurdle: they have become exceedingly unpopular. But this is for good reason; the architects of the science court did not design it correctly. I argue -- with evidence from original psychological experiments -- that public approval of a lawmaking body is largely a function of two discrete psychological dimensions: decisional accuracy and procedural legitimacy. Earlier science court proposals failed to maximize public perceptions of these important psychological values.
I propose a redesigned science court, which includes features of both adversarial and inquisitorial decisionmaking paradigms and maximizes these dual values. I then report the results from original experiments that demonstrate: (1) that litigants prefer the redesigned science court significantly more than they prefer other proposals to maintain the integrity of scientific evidence, and (2) the redesigned science court enjoys greater perceptions of decisional accuracy and procedural legitimacy from litigants. Implications for institutional design -- and for the future of science in the courtroom -- are discussed.
This article is forthcoming in Volume 73 of the Maryland Law Review. As pagination is not yet finalized, we recommend it be cited as follows: Justin Sevier, Redesigning the Science Court, 73 MD. L. REV. __ (2014).
Keywords: scientific evidence, science court, courts, experiment, decisional accuracy, procedural justice
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation