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  • When: May 3, 2017, 12 pm
  • Where: ABF Woods Conference Room, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 4th Floor, Lakeside, Chicago IL 60611

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Judging Experts: What Real Juries Do

Shari Seidman Diamond (American Bar Foundation & Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law) & Mary R. Rose (University of Texas) with the collaboration of Beth Murphy (American Bar Foundation)

Expert witnesses are a common and challenging feature of modern civil litigation. Some critics claim that jurors ignore expert testimony and that opposing experts simply cancel each other out. We present evidence from the deliberations of real juries that contradicts both of these claims. Moreover, we find that jury deliberations focus primarily on the content of the expert’s testimony (central processing), with some modest discussion of some peripheral expert characteristics (heuristic processing), such as credentials and experience, which the jury instructions identify as useful in judging credibility. 

The jurors are wary of some claims by experts, conscious of the adversary setting that produces expert testimony. When faced with opposing experts, the jurors compare the content and quality of the opposing arguments; we find little evidence of a mechanical “canceling each other out” response. Instead, jurors’ strategies for evaluating expert testimony, as with other types of evidence, rely on reference points (e.g., if the opposing experts agree on an issue, that agreement is trustworthy; if an expert concedes a point that assists the opposing side, the conceded point is trustworthy).

We conclude that questions about the ability of courts to ensure the appropriate use of expert content are real, but they arise less from a jury problem than from larger system challenges. Drawing on the Arizona Jury Project and a survey of elite experts, we describe the sources of some of these challenges to set the stage for greater efforts to facilitate the proper use of high quality expertise in legal proceedings.

Regulation, Public Attitudes, and Private Governance in the Food System

Janice Nadler (American Bar Foundation and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law) and David Dana (Northwestern Pritzker School of Law)

Corporate adoption of practices that are the subject of political contestation are increasingly common. The retail store Target’s controversial adoption of a policy regarding transgender people’s use of store bathrooms of their choice is only one recent example. Because of widespread political deadlock, some public interest groups now are more focused on shifting the positions and practices of major corporations than they are on direct political campaigns for legislative or regulatory change. But scholars have largely ignored the possible downstream effects of corporate endorsements on popular attitudes and hence the lawmaking and regulatory processes. In two experiments, we examine whether a large, public-facing corporation’s embrace of an animal welfare policy (cage-free eggs or antibiotic-free meat) influences people’s support for legislation on the issue. We also examine the influence of a state or local government’s public embrace of the same animal welfare policy via its own purchasing practices. We test two competing hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that public support for new legislation decreases following corporate action because the private sector is perceived to be adequately managing the problem, thus obviating the need for a legislative response. The second hypothesis is that public support for new legislation increases following corporate action because people are prompted to recognize the animal welfare issue in question as one in need of regulation. We find that announced changes to animal welfare practices can increase public support for legislation, but the effects differ depending on the type of regulation (private governance v. public legislation) and the political orientation of the perceiver. If corporate endorsements have a general persuasive impact on members of the public who usually resist government messages regarding public safety risks, then legislators and regulators could consider incorporating corporate endorsements more fully into their public information efforts.  

Courtesy of Northwestern University

Shari Diamond is the Howard J. Trienens Professor of Law and a research professor at the American Bar Foundation. An attorney and social psychologist, she is one of the foremost empirical researchers on jury process and legal decision-making, including the use of science by the courts. She has authored or co-authored more than a hundred publications in law reviews and behavioral science journals. She is currently completing a book on juries based on a unique field experiment in which cameras recorded real jury deliberations.

Courtesy of Northwestern University

Janice Nadler has been a member of the Law School faculty since 2000. Her research focuses on criminal law; social norms and compliance with the law; and negotiation and dispute resolution. She holds a joint appointment as a Research Fellow with the American Bar Foundation. In addition to a JD, she holds a PhD in social psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She teaches criminal law, law and psychology, and negotiation.

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