The Use of Social Science Data in Supreme Court Decisions
The cultures of law and social science differ markedly as to the kinds of truth they pursue. Law is deductive, presenting its findings as certainties; social science is largely inductive, presenting its conclusions as subject to revision and contingency.
Yet the legal community traditionally draws at will and unsystematically on the findings of social science, sometimes with unfortunate results. The authors of this study explore this issue by focusing on the manner in which the United States Supreme Court uses social science data in reaching its decisions. Concentrating on decisions involving the issues of abortion, sex discrimination, and sexual harassment, they show that the use of such data has increased over the last twenty years, but they also show that whether such data are used appears to hinge more on the liberal, conservative, or longheld positions of the judges and the types of cases involved, rather than on the objectivity or validity of the data.
By offering insights into how data are used by the Supreme Court, the authors hope to show social scientists how to make their research more suitable for courtroom use and to show the legal community how such data can be used more effectively.
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