Review: The Burden's of Proof

Document Type

Book Review


In The Burdens of Proof, Nance argues that legal questions of fact ought to be determined on the basis not just of the balance of the evidence, but also on the basis of the overall weight of the evidence. For Nance, while assessment of the former is the responsibility of the fact finders, management of the latter is the responsibility of the court. Nance painstakingly situates his argument in the broad body of conceptual work (and, to some extent, the empirical work) on legal burdens of proof. It is when Nance discusses the practical application of burdens of proof in the courtroom (chapter 4) that the book really shines. The audience for this book is somewhat limited, given that the reader would need to be well versed in formal theory, the American judicial process, and intermediate statistical concepts in order to follow Nance’s very technical argument. Nance seems to anticipate this, as he does not go out of his way to make the arguments accessible even to more advanced readers with relevant background knowledge. However, for academics engaging these topics, The Burdens of Proof is a vital contribution to the literature.