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Case analysis method, Data, Cynthia Lee, Empirical research, Interest convergence, Academic legal scholarship, Criminal case outcomes, Social science techniques, Cultural defense


While I consider case analysis in the context of cultural defense jurisprudence, this Essay should be regarded as a case study of a more endemic problem in legal scholarship. In tackling such an area, my goal is not to overthrow centuries of legal analysis, but rather to explore how we, as legal scholars, might use social science techniques to more systematically investigate, document, analyze, and predict the state of a particular comer of the legal universe.

The argument proceeds in two parts. Part II considers empirical approaches to the question raised by Lee: how might we ascertain the relationship between culture and culpability? I discuss several basic techniques, both quantitative and qualitative, that scholars can use to supplement traditional case analysis in this area. Part ill explains the importance of articulating theories that directly address institutional actors and motivations, not just correlations between variables, to further our understanding of how patterns emerge in the criminal justice process. I argue that passive accounts or abstract explanations of case outcomes do not adequately capture the complexities of the justice process, and therefore prove unsatisfying to those who wish to predict future events. I conclude by offering some comments about the relationship between law and social science and by expressing optimism about the future of legal scholarship.

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University of Florida Journal of Law & Public Policy