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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Postgraduate Course: Legal Decision-Making (LAWS11418)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn this course, students will sharpen their understanding of legal decision-making both in judicial and in non-judicial contexts.
Course description This course will explore aspects of the mental process of legal decision-making not usually covered by standard conceptions of legal argumentation, including current research on legal heuristic principles and ¿defaults¿ used consciously and unconsciously by professional legal decision-makers (e.g. judges, lawyers, arbitrators). Recent research has showed that such processes are much more complex than mere ¿hunches¿ or ¿eureka moments¿ concerning what the decision in an instant case should be.

Accordingly, students will familiarize themselves, during the course, with the results of research conducted by cognitive psychologists on legal decision-makers as well as the wider literature on legally relevant patterns of decision-making carried out by decision markers in general. Students will also gain understanding of these phenomena from a normative point of view, identifying features of these mental processes that are valuable either because they are instrumental to the production of better decisions or because they embody a valuable principle or value. In order to do so, students will (a) gain understanding about the mechanisms by which such mental states might be conductive to better decisions and (b) be introduced to normative resources drawn from the current literature on both Virtue Epistemology and Virtue Ethics.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  22
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Formative Assessment:

Every week two students will be invited to write a one-page argument of their choice. One of the texts will be discussed by the class in the last 15 minutes of each seminar in relation to its formal properties (validity, clarity, effectiveness, etc), so as to enhance the group¿s ability to structure and present their arguments well.

Summative Assessment:

5000 Word Essay (100%)

The final essay, worth 100% of the course¿s mark, is designed to assess the students¿'abilities to (a) reconstruct and analyse arguments put forward by scientists to account for empirical data, (b) engage critically with theoretical discussion on mental processes and their value (c) to evaluate and analyse legal decisions holistically.
Feedback Formative feedback will be provided via seminar discussion.

Summative feedback will be provided via a written piece of marking feedback for the 5000 Word Essay (100%).
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an ability to engage critically with legal decision-making.
  2. Evidence developed knowledge of a holistic and complex account of the mental processes used by legal professionals to decide an instant case.
  3. Produce independently, valid and sound arguments (both orally and in writing).
Reading List
B Anderson, 'Discovery' in Legal Decision-Making (Springer, 1996)

Martin P Golding, Legal Reasoning (Broadview Press 2001)

N MacCormick, Legal Reasoning and Legal Theory (Clarendon Press 1994)

N MacCormick, Rhetoric and the Rule of Law. A Theory of Legal Reasoning (Oxford University Press 2005)

CR Sunstein Behavioral Law and Economics (Oxford University Press, 2000)

RA Wasserstrom, The Judicial Decision. Toward a Theory of Legal Justification (Stanford University Press 1961)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course will help students develop the abilities:

(a) to reconstruct and analyse arguments put forward by scientists to account for empirical data;
(b) to engage critically with theoretical discussion on mental processes and their value;
(c) to evaluate and analyse legal decisions holistically.
KeywordsLegal,Decision-Making,Legal Argumentation,Postgraduate
Course organiserProf Amalia Amaya Navarro
Tel: (0131 6) 51 4790
Course secretaryMiss Bethan Walters
Tel: (0131 6)50 2386
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