Legal LEGO: Model Based Computer Assisted Teaching in Evidence Courses

By Schafer, Burkhard; Keppens, Jeroen | Journal of Information, Law and Technology, January 2007 | Go to article overview
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Legal LEGO: Model Based Computer Assisted Teaching in Evidence Courses

Schafer, Burkhard, Keppens, Jeroen, Journal of Information, Law and Technology


1. Introduction
 1.1 On the role of evidence scholarship in
 legal education
 1.2 Developing user requirements
2. Judex non calculat--naive physics in the
law curriculum
3. Dead bodies in locked rooms
 3.1 Model-based diagnois
 3.2 From LEGO to Scenario
 3.3 Knowledge base
4. User Interface
 4.1 User input
 4.2 System output
5. Outlook for future work
6. References


This paper describes the development of a new approach to the use of ICT for the teaching of courses in the interpretation and evaluation of evidence. It is based on ideas developed for the teaching of science to school children, in particular the importance of models and qualitative reasoning skills. In the first part, we make an analysis of the basis of current research into "evidence scholarship" and the demands such a system would have to meet. In the second part, we introduce the details of such a system that we developed initially to assist police in the interpretation of evidence.


ICT, Expert Systems, Evaluation of Evidence, Reasoning


This paper introduces a model based approach to the use of ICT for the teaching of evidence evaluation and interpretation. In the first part, we develop a "user requirement" for such a system, arguing first the case for extended teaching of evidence evaluation in law curricula. We then analyse the problems that so far have prevented such courses from becoming a more regular feature of legal education. We conclude that a qualitative reasoning approach to science, which emphasises the importance of concrete models over abstract mathematical formula, is best suited to help lawyers to learn how to interact more efficiently with the relevant experts.

Over the past decade, the use of computer based modelling techniques for science education has been vigorously promoted by the qualitative reasoning group around Ken Forbus (Forbus and Whalley 1994; Forbus 2001; Forbus, Carney, Sherin, and Ureel, 2004). In the second part of the paper, we introduce a program that shares its underlying philosophy with the approaches to computer assisted science teaching proposed by this group. However, our task differs in two crucial aspects from the type of application the qualitative reasoning group had in mind. First, lawyers need not become scientists, but they need improved skills to interact with scientific experts. For this, it is not sufficient to improve their understanding of science, they also need to acquire the skills of re-translating what they learn about science into a format appropriate for legal proceedings. As it is at present not possible to include visual scientific models directly in a court decision, our approach pays more emphasise on the process of verbalising the evaluation of evidence.

Second, lawyers cannot compartmentalise science the way a science curriculum does. In any given court case, scientific evidence from multiple disciplines may play a role. In that respect, their task is even more demanding than that of a single-discipline scientific expert. Teaching the ability to compare evidence across disciplines is therefore more important for lawyers than in depth knowledge of a specific subject.


In legal practice, the overwhelming majority of disputes that ever reach the courts are decided on issues of fact. Many more are aborted before they even reach adjudication, because there is insufficient evidence to pursue the issue further. Prosecutors have to decide if the evidence gathered by the police gives them sufficient chance for success in trial, and in some jurisdictions they will advise the police what further investigations to carry out to make a charge stick. Counsel for the defence, and lawyers representing parties in civil litigation, have to be able to identify from the often confused accounts of their clients what facts they are able to establish.

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Legal LEGO: Model Based Computer Assisted Teaching in Evidence Courses


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