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Maryland Law Review

Publication Title (Abbreviation)

Md. L. Rev.





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Scientific evidence is a field in crisis. The validity and reliability of forensic techniques have been criticized by nearly every actor in the legal communityby attorneys, judges, the legal academy, and even the National Academy of Sciencesand high-profile cases of scientific evidence gone awry have garnered national attention. Policymakers have suggested many solutions to the scientific evidence crisis, including a controversial proposal to remove complex scientific cases from state and federal dockets and to hear those cases instead in a specialized “science court.”

Science court proposals face one substantial hurdle: they have become exceedingly unpopular. But this is for good reason; it is entirely possible that the architects of the science court did not design it correctly. I arguewith evidence from original psychological experimentsthat public approval of a lawmaking body is largely a function of two discrete psychological dimensions: decisional accuracy and procedural legitimacy. Earlier science court proposals failed to maximize public perceptions of these important psychological values.

I propose a redesigned science court, which includes features of both adversarial and inquisitorial decision-making paradigms and prioritizes these dual values. I then report the results from original experiments that illustrate: (1) that litigants prefer the redesigned science court significantly more than they prefer other proposals to maintain the integrity of scientific evidence, and (2) the redesigned science court enjoys greater perceptions of decisional accuracy and procedural legitimacy from litigants. Implications for institutional designand for the future of science in the courtroomare discussed.


© 2014 Justin Sevier


First published in Maryland Law Review.

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