Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Legal Empirical Studies - FOR HIRE

Footnote17. It has a kind of Kafkaesque ring to it. Academics and practicing lawyers alike should beware...

Take a look at Adam Liptak's Sidebar column in today's New York Times here. Liptak details the efforts of Exxon to find an expert (and a study) that would take "a dim view" of punitive damages. Exxon, of course, was in the middle of defending the Exxon Valdez case. Ultimately, the jury's award of punitive damages was reduced by the USSC. Justice Souter, in the now famous (or infamous) footnote 17 said that “Because this research was funded in part by Exxon we decline to rely on it.” Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 128 S.Ct. 2605, 2626 (2008).

How important is footnote 17? As Liptak notes, Cornell actually hosted a conference that included an analysis on the effect of Souter's aside.

Empirical legal researchers have their own publication - The Journal of Empirical Legal Research. Finding footnote 17? That was easy. A simple full text search in a database of USSC cases using the search term "funded in part by Exxon." Unique keywords can bring instant results.

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