On the Design of Legal Rules: Balancing Versus Structured Decision Procedures
John M. Olin Discussion Paper No. 996
75 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2019 Last revised: 11 Jul 2019
Date Written: March 14, 2019
Important doctrines in diverse areas of law employ structured decision procedures requiring, in rough terms, that the plaintiff first make some demonstration of harm; if but only if that is done, the defendant must make some showing of benefit; and if but only if that occurs, balancing is performed. This Article compares such protocols to unconstrained balancing and finds them to be inferior with respect to the quality of final decisions: they sometimes fail to impose liability even though the harm is greater than the benefit, and they sometimes impose liability even though the benefit exceeds the harm. The Article also develops the principles of optimal information (evidence) collection and shows how structured decision procedures violate every core lesson and presuppose distinctions that often are incoherent or impractical to implement. The analysis addresses concerns about balancing that may motivate structured protocols, how less restrictive alternatives should be assessed, and the extent to which legal proceedings are conducted in conformity with either approach, as well as how they might be reformed.
Keywords: Legal rules, adjudication, information, balancing, less restrictive alternatives
JEL Classification: D83, K00, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation