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An Economic Approach to the Law of Evidence

Опубликовано на портале: 01-09-2003
John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Papers. 1999.  No. 66.
The law of evidence is the body of rules that determines what, and how, information may be provided to a legal tribunal that must resolve a factual dispute. This article is the first comprehensive (though it is neither exhaustive nor definitive) economic analysis of evidence law. Author concludes that the institutional and doctrinal structure of the American law of evidence has a subtle, though intuitive, implicit, and incomplete, economic logic. He both emphasizes the close connection between rules of evidence and the use of the jury and makes repeated reference to Bayes theorem.
Although economic theory provides the framework of analysis in this article, author draws heavily on an empirical literature on trials and evidence that is largely psychological in orientation, as well as on Bayes theorem, other aspects of decision theory, and statistical inference. The approach is therefore eclectic rather than narrowly economic, although it slights epistemological and other philosophical perspectives on the trial process, which seem to me to have only a very limited utility. The articles explanatory findings and reformist suggestions are summarized in the Conclusiona glance at which will show that, despite the still widespread belief that economic analysis of law has an inherent tendency toward politically conservative reforms, this is clearly not true with regard to the law of evidence.

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Douglass C. North
Economics Working Paper Archive at WUSTL. 1994.