PhilStat/Law: Nathan Schachtman: Acknowledging Multiple Comparisons in Statistical Analysis: Courts Can and Must


Deborah Mayo recently reblogged and commented on Nathan Schachtman’s blog post titled “Courts Can and Must Acknowledge Multiple Comparisons in Statistical Analyses.” (Mr Schachtman is not only a lawyer; he is also a lecturer at Columbia Law School and an expert on scientific evidence.) Moreover, because Mr Schachtman’s blog post and Dr Mayo’s comments on Schachtman’s post touch on an area we care about — the role of probability theory in law — we are re-reblogging both items below and shall comment on them in a future post.

Originally posted on Error Statistics Philosophy:



The following is from Nathan Schachtman’s legal blog, with various comments and added emphases (by me). He will try to reply to comments/queries.

“Courts Can and Must Acknowledge Multiple Comparisons in Statistical Analyses”

Nathan Schachtman, Esq., PC * October 14th, 2014

In excluding the proffered testimony of Dr. Anick Bérard, a Canadian perinatal epidemiologist in the Université de Montréal, the Zoloft MDL trial court discussed several methodological shortcomings and failures, including Bérard’s reliance upon claims of statistical significance from studies that conducted dozens and hundreds of multiple comparisons.[i] The Zoloft MDL court was not the first court to recognize the problem of over-interpreting the putative statistical significance of results that were one among many statistical tests in a single study. The court was, however, among a fairly small group of judges who have shown the needed statistical acumen in looking beyond the reported p-value or…

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Martian Monday

We like drmickhead’s comment: “The fact that we have robots on another planet that will be photographing this event makes [us] inordinately happy.

“The possibility of a general theory of emergency”

That is the subtitle of this fascinating paper — the full title of the paper is “Exception and Necessity: The Possibility of a General Theory of Emergency” — written by our colleague William Vazquez-Irizarry, a law professor at the University of Puerto Rico. In his paper, Professor Vazquez-Irizarry compares and contrasts the state of exception doctrine in public law with the doctrine of necessity in private law and develops a “general theory of emergency” common to both areas of law. The idea of a general theory of emergency is intriguing and original, but there is no reference in this paper to the work of Ronald Coase or John Rawls. That is, what would happen if rulers and the ruled could bargain with each other, either ex ante behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance or ex post (assuming, of course, zero transaction costs)? In either case, what rules or principles would we agree to for dealing with public and private emergencies? Would the rules for private emergencies be the same as the ones for public emergencies?

This is just a test …

John Suh is not a lawyer

He is, however, a graduate of the Harvard Business School and the CEO of LegalZoom. So, will new business models like LegalZoom and new technologies like Watson Debater make lawyers and law firms obsolete? We’ve just read Susan Beck’s excellent report “Emerging Technology Shapes Future of Law.” Among the things in her report that caught our attention was this particular passage (edited for clarity):

One obvious impediment to LegalZoom’s expansion are restrictions by State courts and State bar associations prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law. While they vary by State, all these rules prohibit nonlawyers from sharing fees with lawyers … All but a few states prohibit nonlawyers from doing even the most routine legal tasks … Suh, who has been CEO of LegalZoom since 2007, is not a lawyer. He’s a graduate of Harvard Business School who previously ran other Internet businesses. His company has battled lawsuits in four states claiming it’s engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Two of the cases have been resolved largely in LegalZoom’s favor, while two are pending.

The legal profession, in other words, hates competition and has set up artificial barriers to entry (such as expensive three-year law degrees and bar exams) that openly violate State and federal antitrust laws and harm consumers. (By the way, why is the legal profession exempt from our competition laws? The irony of this situation does not escape us!) In any case, is LegalZoom engaged in the practice of law? So what if it is? Aside from stifling markets and competition, why do you need a law degree or a law license to practice law? After all, you don’t need a degree or license to sing opera or play major league baseball?

Zombie Hunting Permits


What is the optimal number of zombies? Our friend Glen Whitman makes the case why this number might be greater than zero.

Originally posted on Economics of the Undead:

The city of Clarendon Hills, Illinois, has begun issuing zombie hunting permits.  A permit system is typically used to limit the amount of something.  Which raises an intriguing question:  why does Clarendon Hills want to reduce the amount of zombie hunting?  Apparently, there must be too few zombies!

This is not as absurd as it sounds.  As Michael O’Hara argues in Chapter 16 of Economics of the Undead, “Zombies as an Invasive Species,” one potential solution to a zombie infestation is to encourage people to hunt zombies for sport.  Initially, while the zombies are numerous and out of control, you wouldn’t want to limit this activity.  But if zombie hunting became popular enough, then the zombies could be hunted into extinction — which would mean the death of a popular and enjoyable pastime.  To prevent the overhunting of the zombie population, you would need to establish private zombie-hunting preserves (as O’Hara…

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“I am a Liberian, not a virus”

Check out  and this report by Yesha Callahan. Thanks to Shoana Cachelle for her video.

Watson Law?

Remember Watson, IBM’s Jeopardy-winning supercomputer? According to this report in LTN (Law Technology News), IBM is developing Watson Debater, a computer that can synthesize rules and cases and argue different sides of a legal issue. Robert C. Weber, Senior Vice President of Legal & Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel at IBM United Kingdom, thinks that Watson is already able to pass any State’s bar exam. Mr Weber also notes that Watson is “developing the ability to put forth arguments in a logical way,” which could have “implications in the law.” (You don’t say?) What about for politics? (Hat tip: Ray Campbell, who blogs regularly at The Faculty Lounge.)

The future of law?