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Jurimetrics: The interface of science and law

Introduction

Law as we know, is dynamic in nature and with the advent of technological revolution, harmonizing it with science was felt necessary. The term Jurimetrics was introduced by one Lee Loevinger, who was a member of the Minnesota Bar in the year 1949. In his article titled: “Jurimetrics: The next step forward” he explains how there was a need for change in the paradigm and how now the adoption of scientific methods was needed to move ahead from primitive knowledge of the law.[1] In the 1960s, application of computers for legal research, analysis of evidence and management of data started to gain importance. It was at this point of time when the American Bar Association took an initiative and issued a journal called Jurimetrics Journal of Law, Science and Technology[2] which dealt with the interplay between Jurisprudence and mathematical equations and statistics in order to produce a legal outcome. Jurisprudence, which is the philosophy of law encompasses the principles on which the law and reason is based on, even in contemporary times. It gives us the very essence of justice, fairness and the role of law in society. Jurisprudence blended with technology is what creates the concept of Jurimetrics. In this article, the author seeks to critically analyze the concept of Jurimetrics and deliberate upon some criticism of the concept.

Meaning of Jurimetrics

Jurimetrics simply means the application of mathematical equations and statistical data applied to the principles of law (in form of observations) in order to resolve a particular legal problem and obtain a legal outcome by applying of power of technology. The current paradigm of legal research heavily depends on computers and there is voluminous amount of legal information available on the internet. Jurimetrics takes an empirical approach towards finding a solution or an outcome by comprehensive examination of a legal topic and other interrelated topics and analyzing it.

To put it into a better perspective, imagine a computer taking place of a Judge in a Court of law. The facts are presented and a Judgement has to be pronounced by taking into consideration all the relevant factors such as the statues applicable, precedents, the gravity of the circumstances, levels of generality and other principles of law. When all of these factors are combined together and programmed in a computer, it empirically analyzes all the facts, applies all such principles and using the mathematical formulas and statistical data, comes out with an outcome in form a Judgement and determines the liabilities of the parties.

Critical Analysis

While Jurisprudence is based on speculation about law, Jurimetrics is scientific investigation of law and is based on observation and experience. Observation and experience are a very important source which can be put to use in order to achieve an outcome. That is because since the laws and interpretations of law have been sculpted with time, these changes give us an idea as to how the society wants the laws to exist in a particular sphere. Jurisprudence is based on the speculations as to what the society wants to achieve through enforcing law, but Jurimetrics is based on the various observations that have been made through time and all these observations when put together with interrelated information helps in reaching an outcome. This outcome helps us solve legal problems in an effective manner. Jurimetrics is based not only on data storage and retrieval, but also on analysis of complex evidence, prediction of Judgements, legal drafting, removal of textual ambiguities and could potentially also lead to legal reform.[3]

Jurimetrics as a concept seems to be very promising, but as is rightly said, with no positivity, there is no hope; with no negativity, there is no improvement. Thus, constructive criticism is important for improvement of a particular thing. Jurimetrics, if it were to be used widely, does pose some challenges. The first one being the rationale and human emotion cannot be matched by a machine. Human beings have a peculiar sense of what is fair and what is not. Yes, computers can be trained, by means of complex algorithms to be able to base their rationale on such human sense of judgement, but there always will be a part of human thinking which cannot be matched. To put it into perspective, we can take an example of a murder being committed of a person. Now, a Judge can actually assess the mental agony that might be faced by the family of the murdered person, the circumstances in which the family will be put into, but when you consider a machine, it will use the algorithms and the observations which are stored into it. Surely, a thought may arise that the observations form a basis of judging the mental agony being faced by the family but the circumstances of each and every case differ and it will certainly be difficult for a machine to perceive and assess the emotions felt by a human. Secondly: the problem of storage of massive amounts of data. In order for a computer to be actually able to assess a situation based on observations, the database of the observations has to be voluminous and achieving that certainly is a challenge.

Conclusion

Jurimetrics is constantly in the stage of evolution. There are numerous new legislations, judgements, regulations and rules that come into light on a regular basis due to the reason of law being dynamic in nature. So it can be said that with time, Jurimetrics is also susceptible to change. Hence, Jurimetrics certainly has a promising future and with the evolution of technology and Artificial Intelligence in the present times, it could certainly be the future of law and reason!

-Ayush Wadhi, Member, IDIA Pune Chapter


[1] Loevinger Lee, Jurimetrics–The Next Step Forward (1949). Minnesota Law Review. 1796, (Jan. 22, 2020. 10:30 PM) https://scholarship.law.umn.edu/mlr/1796

[2] American Bar Association, Jurimetrics Journal Online, (Jan. 22, 2020. 11:40 PM) https://www.americanbar.org/groups/science_technology/publications/jurimetrics/

[3] Perry Meyer, Jurimetrics: The scientific method in legal research, The Canadian Bar Review, 2, Vol. XLIV (1966).

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