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“The Supreme Court Is Allergic To Math”

The Supreme Court does not compute. Or at least some of its members would rather not. The justices, the most powerful jurists in the land, seem to have a reluctance — even an allergy — to taking math and statistics seriously.

So says this post on FiveThirtyEight.com, which contrasts the current justices’ fretting about mathematical “gobbledygook” with Oliver Wendell Holmes’s statement (in “The Path of the Law,” 10 Harvard Law Review 457 (1897)) that “[f]or the rational study of the law … the man of the future is the man of statistics and the master of economics. It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV.” Is this a problem? “This is a real problem,” according to Sanford Levinson, a professor of law and government at the University of Texas at Austin, “[b]ecause more and more law requires genuine familiarity with the empirical world and, frankly, classical legal analysis isn’t a particularly good way of finding out how the empirical world operates.”

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