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Deterrence vs Judicial Error: A Comparative View of Standards of Proof

  • Dominique Demougin
  • Claude Fluet

We argue that the common law standard of proof, given the rules of evidence, does not minimize expected error as usually argued in the legal literature, but may well be efficient from the standpoint of providing maximal incentives for socially desirable behavior. By contrast, civil law's higher but somewhat imprecise standard may be interpreted as reflecting a tradeoff between providing incentives and avoiding judicial error per se. In our model, the optimal judicial system has rules resembling those in the common law when providing incentives is paramount. When greater weight is given to avoiding error, the optimal system has civilian features. Nous argumentons que le standard de preuve en common law, compte tenu des contraintes de recevabilité en matière de preuve, n'a pas pour effet de minimiser l'erreur attendue comme le soutient la littérature juridique, mais qu'il peut être efficient d'un point de vue incitatif. Par comparaison, le standard de preuve plus fort mais imprécis des pays de droit codifié peut s'interpréter comme résultant d'un arbitrage entre minimisation des erreurs et effets incitatifs. Dans notre modèle, le système légal optimal a des règles ressemblant à celle de la common law quand les préoccupations incitatives sont primordiales. Lorsqu'une plus grande importance est attachée à l'élimination des erreurs de justice, le système optimal a des caractéristiques proches des systèmes de droit codifié.

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Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 2004s-38.

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Length: 19 pages
Date of creation: 01 Jul 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2004s-38
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  1. Dominique Demougin & Claude Fluet, 2002. "Preponderance of Evidence," Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers 150, CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal.
  2. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1989. "Legal Error, Litigation, and the Incentive to Obey the Law," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 99-108, Spring.
  3. Daniel L. Rubinfeld & David E.M. Sappington, 1987. "Efficient Awards and Standards of Proof in Judicial Proceedings," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(2), pages 308-315, Summer.
  4. Claude Fluet, 2002. "Enforcing Contracts: Should Courts Seek the Truth?," CIRANO Working Papers 2002s-76, CIRANO.
  5. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1999. "The Conflict between Notions of Fairness and the Pareto Principle," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1-2), pages 63-77, Fall.
  6. Davis, Michael L, 1994. "The Value of Truth and the Optimal Standard of Proof in Legal Disputes," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 343-59, October.
  7. Shavell, S., 1986. "The judgment proof problem," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 45-58, June.
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