One of the oddities of decision-making is how difficult it is to integrate complexity.  @marclauritsen has been working on this problem with his choiceboxes.

In legal decision-making, the impression (of this student of law) is that complexity is often handled by alighting on a few factors, or even one, and declaring it determinative.   With a turn of phrase, a subtle, complex question is turned into a simple one.  Appellate decisions sometimes embrace this kind of reasoning.

Of course, it is hard, or even impossible, to express complex relationships in text except as stories.  My maternal grandfather often told anecdotes, the point of which seemed to be to open one up to the ironies of human affairs.  They often escaped my youthful grasp but stayed with me.  My father, a lawyer, also looks for cross-currents.  But he also says, with characteristic concision, that if you have more than three factors, you don’t have a rule.  Without rules, it is hard to structure human relations.

The hard parts, the rules, need connective tissue, judgment.  He (the father) also emphasizes reading between the lines of (US-style) judicial opinions to show what the judges are thinking, as opposed to what they are saying.  Morality and prejudgment are practiced in these gaps.

Now to the point, or rather, to the lines connecting points.  Graph representations convey patterns of connections, visually and viscerally.  One can see large groups of interactions.  So, might wide-availability of visual representations of connections lead to a broader view of legal causation and of the possibilities of rules?  Something more consistent with common sense or engineering?

As an example, might the ability to see the connections among various provisions in documents and among different uses in similar documents — patterns of transacting — get us up from the phrase level analysis that so strongly characterizes US law?

Might it help us to make judgments that are more contextually informed?  Like those in close-knit communities or bayesian networks.

Might I run out of question marks?

P.S. As an aside(?) see the next post, on a difference between French and US judicial opinions.

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