Volume 75, Number 6

December 2000

The Heuristics of Intellectual Due Process: A Primer for Triers of Science

Erica Beecher-Monas

Assistant Professor of Law, University of Arkansas at Little Rock. B.A., 1976, M.S., 1978, J.D.,1988, University of Miami; LLM., 1995, Columbia University.

Scientific evidence is an inescapable facet of modern litigation. The Supreme Court, beginning with the seminal case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and continuing with General Electric Co. v. Joiner and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, has instructed federal judges to evaluate the scientific validity of such evidence in determining the evidence’s admissibility. In this Article, Professor Erica Beecher-Monas argues that many judges ignore the science component of their “gatekeeping” duties, focusing instead on rules of convenience that have little scientific justification. As a result, she demonstrates that judges reject even scientifically uncontroversial evidence that would have little trouble finding admissibility under the pre-Daubert “general consensus” standard and admit evidence that is scientifically baseless. Such faulty analysis of scientific evidence deprives litigants of intellectual due process from judges and undercuts the proper functioning and credibility of the judicial system. Beecher-Monas contends that understanding certain basic principles underlying all fields of science will enable judges to make better admissibility decisions. Based on the language of science and criteria scientists use to assess validity, as well as the Supreme Court’s requirements in Daubert, Joiner, and Kumho Tire, Beecher-Monas proposes a five-step framework for sound analysis of scientific evidence Size then demonstrates the usefulness of the heuristic in two cases where applying the heuristic would have changed the outcome dramatically. The framework proposed in this Article will allow triers of science to make scientifically justifiable admissibility assessments, and in so doing will give litigants in cases involving scientific evidence the intellectual due process they deserve.