Law 165 - Empirical Reasoning in the Law
Richard H. Sander
M.A. Economics, Northwestern, 1985
J.D. Northwestern, 1988
Ph.D. Economics, Northwestern, 1990
Empirical evidence has become a pervasive part of courtroom proceedings and legislative deliberation, mostly for good reasons. A basic literacy with statistics is not only a crucial skill for new lawyers, but an important way of understanding how empiricists look at legal issues. This course seeks to teach both some basic, specific skills and a broader, introductory perspective on the role of quantitative reasoning in the law. On the skill side, we will focus on the concepts of “practical and statistical significance” – how one determines whether evidence shows a conclusive pattern or cannot be distinguished from random patterns, and when courts or lawmakers should care about these patterns. On the perspective side, we will read excerpts from judicial opinions and regulatory systems that rely on statistical evidence, as well as some articles that consider the place and limits of quantitative reasoning in the law. No special preparation is required to enroll. Coursework will consist of a modest amount of reading, four problem sets, and a 1700-word paper in which you play the role of a law clerk advising your judge about a series of quantitative issues before the court. Students taking this course will be well-prepared to take advantage of more advanced law school offerings on quantitative issues and research.