First 30

How to Make a Judge Dislike You (Part 1)

The following points are from the book The Art of Persuading Judges. The author, Antonin Scalia, was a judge on the Supreme Court in the US for 30 years. The second author, Bryan A. Garner, is a professor at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law and has written over 20 law books.

Now, how to make a judge dislike you...?

1. Appeal to the judges emotions, not reason

Appealing to judges’ emotions is misguided because it fundamentally mistakes their motivation. Good judges pride themselves on the rationality of their rulings and the suppression of their personal proclivities, including most especially their emotions. And bad judges want to be regarded as good judges. So either way, overt appeal to emotion is likely to be regarded as an insult.

2. Unorganise your materials

Fumbling through papers during an embarrassing silence not only wastes your argument time; it makes you look like an incompetent. 

I speak from the fullness of my heart when I say that I have seen more trouble in Court over disorderly papers than from any other cause. So I decline to treat as a triviality beneath counsel’s notice this matter of the tidiness and accessibility of the documents in the case.

3. Praise the judge's questions

Never—never—patronize a judge by volunteering “That’s a very good question.” Of course it is! All judges’ questions are ex officio brilliant. [F]or heaven’s sake, forget about the rather trite response ‘I’m glad you asked that question’ or ‘That question goes to the very heart of the case.’ We have all heard this response to our questions, and we are all a little bit skeptical about it.

4. Have irritating mannerisms

...we have seen just about every distracting and annoying sort of mannerism. Some appear to be unconscious and unintended: drumming one’s pencil on the counsel table, swaying back and forth during argument, fixing one’s gaze on the lectern or off into the middle distance instead of looking at the judge who is asking a question, fiddling with papers on the lectern, going through the argument with a frozen smile that’s either silly or supercilious.

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Want to read more? Buy the book here.

Legal Reasoning and Syllogism: A Primer

The book The Art of Persuading Judges by Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner, lays out the basics of legal reasoning. They assert that all arguments fall under positive or negative syllogisms. 

Leaving aside emotional appeals, persuasion is possible only because all human beings are born with a capacity for logical thought. It is something we all have in common. The most rigorous form of logic, and hence the most persuasive, is the syllogism.

Legal arguments can be expressed syllogistically in two ways:

Positive syllogisms:

Major premise: All S is P.
Minor premise: This case is S.
Conclusion: This case is P. 

Negative syllogisms:

Major premise: Only S is P.
Minor premise: This case is not S.
Conclusion: This case is not P.

What falls under the major premise?

Legal argument generally has three sources of major premises: a text (constitution, statute, regulation, ordinance, or contract), precedent (caselaw, etc.), and policy (i.e., consequences of the decision). Often the major premise is self-evident and acknowledged by both sides.

What falls under the minor premise?

The minor premise, meanwhile, is derived from the facts of the case. There is much to be said for the proposition that legal reasoning revolves mainly around the establishment of the minor premise.

And finally, some examples:

So if you’re arguing from precedent, your argument might go:

Major premise: Our cases establish that a prisoner has a claim for harm caused by the state’s deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.
Minor premise: Guards at the Andersen Unit ignored the plaintiff’s complaints of acute abdominal pain for 48 hours, whereupon his appendix burst.
Conclusion: The plaintiff prisoner has a claim.

Or if you’re arguing text:

Major premise: Under the Indian Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, states cannot tax Indian tribes for activities on reservations without the express authorization of Congress.
Minor premise: Without congressional authorization, South Dakota has imposed its motor-fuel tax on tribes that sell fuel on reservations.
Conclusion: South Dakota’s tax is unconstitutional.

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Want to read more? Buy the book here.

Cognitive Fusion and Cognitive Defusion

'All too often we react to our thoughts as if they are the absolute truth, or as if we must give them all our attention. The psychological jargon for this reaction is ‘cognitive fusion’.'
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Russ Harris, the author of The Happiness Trap, explains to us the difference between cognitive fusion and cognitive defusion. 

Cognitive Fusion

‘Cognition’ is the technical term for a product of the mind, such as a thought, image or memory. ‘Fusion’ means a blending or melding together. ‘Cognitive fusion’ means that the thought and the thing it refers to—the story and the event—become blended.

Thus, we react to words about a lemon as if a lemon is actually present; we react to words in a crime novel as if someone really is about to be murdered; we react to words like ‘I’m useless’ as if we actually are useless; and we react to words like ‘I’m going to fail’ as if failure is a foregone conclusion.

In a state of cognitive fusion, it seems as if:

- Thoughts are reality—as if what we’re thinking were actually happening.

- Thoughts are the truth—we completely believe them.

- Thoughts are important—we take them seriously and give them our full attention.

- Thoughts are orders—we automatically obey them.

- Thoughts are wise—we assume they know best and we follow their advice.

- Thoughts can be threats—some thoughts can be deeply disturbing or frightening.

Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive defusion reminds us that thoughts are just words.

In a state of defusion, we recognise:

- Thoughts are merely sounds, words, stories or bits of language.

- Thoughts may or may not be true; we don’t automatically believe them.

- Thoughts may or may not be important; we pay attention only if they’re helpful.

- Thoughts are definitely not orders; we certainly don’t have to obey them.

- Thoughts may or may not be wise; we don’t automatically follow their advice.

- Thoughts are never threats; even the most negative of thoughts is not deeply disturbing or frightening.

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Want to read more? Buy the book here

Mental Model: Plausible Deniability

Plausible deniability is the situation where a person has the freedom to deny knowledge of wrongdoing.  

The book The Righteous Minddescribes it like this:

Many psychologists have studied the effects of having “plausible deniability.” In one such study, subjects performed a task and were then given a slip of paper and a verbal confirmation of how much they were to be paid. But when they took the slip to another room to get their money, the cashier misread one digit and handed them too much money. Only 20 percent spoke up and corrected the mistake. 

But the story changed when the cashier asked them if the payment was correct. In that case, 60 percent said no and returned the extra money. Being asked directly removes plausible deniability; it would take a direct lie to keep the money. As a result, people are three times more likely to be honest.

You can’t predict who will return the money based on how people rate their own honesty, or how well they are able to give the high-minded answer on a moral dilemma...

In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely describes a brilliant series of studies in which participants had the opportunity to earn more money by claiming to have solved more math problems than they really did. Ariely summarizes his findings from many variations of the paradigm like this:

"When given the opportunity, many honest people will cheat. In fact, rather than finding that a few bad apples weighted the averages, we discovered that the majority of people cheated, and that they cheated just a little bit."

People didn’t try to get away with as much as they could. Rather, when Ariely gave them anything like the invisibility of the ring of Gyges, they cheated only up to the point where they themselves could no longer find a justification that would preserve their belief in their own honesty.

The bottom line is that in lab experiments that give people invisibility combined with plausible deniability, most people cheat.

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Want to read more? Buy the book here.

Criminology: Why Do People Commit Crimes?

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Criminology is the science of criminal Behaviour. Larry J. Segal has written a great introductory criminology textbook and he has set out six major theories on why people commit crimes. 

1. Rational Choice Theory

According to the contemporary rational choice approach, law-violating behavior occurs when an offender decides to risk breaking the law after considering both personal factors (i.e., the need for money, revenge, thrills, and entertainment) and situational factors (i.e., how well a target is protected and the efficiency of the local police force). People who believe that the risks of crime outweigh the rewards may decide to go straight. If they think they are likely to be arrested and punished, they are more likely to seek treatment and turn their lives around than risk criminal activities.

Some examples include:

Economic Opportunity Boston Magazine ran an article recently about a university lecturer with a master’s degree from Yale and a doctorate in cultural anthropology who took another job to pay the bills: call girl. Rather than living on the meager teaching salary she was offered, the “Ivy League hooker” chose to make the tax-free $140 per hour for her services (she charged $200, handing over $60 to the escort service that arranged her dates). She left the business when she became financially self-sufficient.

Theft: For example, there are professional shoplifters, referred  to as boosters, who use complex methods in order to avoid detection. They steal with the intention of reselling  stolen merchandise to professional fences, another group of  criminals who use cunning and rational decision making in their daily activities.

Drugs: Research does in fact show that from its onset drug use is controlled by rational decision making. Users report that they begin taking drugs when they believe that the benefits of substance abuse outweigh its costs (e.g., they believe that drugs will provide a fun, exciting, thrilling experience).

2. Biosocial Theory

Rather than viewing the criminal as a person whose behavior is controlled solely by conditions determined at birth, most biocriminologists believe that physical, environmental, and social conditions work in concert to produce human behavior; this integrated approach is commonly referred to as biosocial theory.

Biochemical - The major premise of the theory is that crime, especially violence, is a function of diet, vitamin intake, hormonal imbalance, or food allergies.

Neurological - The major premise of the theory is that criminals and delinquents often suffer brain impairment, as measured by the EEG. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and minimal brain dysfunction are related to antisocial behavior.

Genetic - The major premise of the theory is that criminal traits and predispositions are inherited. The criminality of parents can predict the delinquency of children.

Evolutionary - The major premise of the theory is that as the human race evolved, traits and characteristics have become ingrained. Some of these traits make people aggressive and predisposed to commit crime.

3. Psychological Trait Theory

...trait theories focuses on the psychological aspects of crime, including the associations among intelligence, personality, learning, and criminal behavior.

Psychodynamic - The major premise of the theory is that the development of the unconscious personality early in childhood influences behavior for the rest of the person’s life. Criminals have weak egos and damaged personalities. The research focuses of the theory are on mental disorders, personality development, and unconscious motivations and drives.’ Such as a sociopath and psychopath. ..some psychologists distinguish between sociopaths and psychopaths, suggesting that the former are a product of a destructive home environment whereas the latter are a product of an inherited genetic defect.

Behavioral - The major premise of the theory is that people commit crime when they model their behavior after others they see being rewarded for similar acts. Behavior is reinforced by rewards and extinguished by punishment.

Cognitive - The major premise of the theory is that individual reasoning processes influence behavior. Reasoning is influenced by the way people perceive their environment. [Such as,] the child abuser perceives that he is superior and more important than others and hence is able to have sex with whomever and whenever he wants.

4. Neutralization Theory

They view the process of becoming a criminal as a learning experience in which potential delinquents and criminals master techniques that enable them to counterbalance or neutralize conventional values and drift back and forth between illegitimate and conventional behavior. One reason this is possible is the subterranean value structure of American society. Subterranean values  are morally tinged influences that have become entrenched in the culture but are publicly condemned. They exist side by side with conventional values and while condemned in public may be admired or practiced in private. Examples include viewing pornographic films, drinking alcohol to excess, and gambling on sporting events.

5. Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory

[Hirschi] assumes that all individuals are potential law violators, but they are kept under control because they fear that illegal behavior will damage their relationships with friends, parents, neighbors, teachers, and employers. Without these social ties or bonds, and in the absence of sensitivity to and interest in others, a person is free to commit criminal acts.

6. Latent Trait Theory

Their model assumes that a number of people in the population have a personal attribute or characteristic that controls their inclination or propensity to commit crimes. This disposition, or latent trait, may be either present at birth or established early in life, and it can remain stable over time. Suspected latent traits include defective intelligence, damaged or impulsive personality, genetic abnormalities, the physical-chemical functioning of the brain, and environmental influences on brain function such as drugs, chemicals, and injuries. Some latent trait theorists maintain that this master trait is inflexible, stable, and unchanging throughout a person’s lifetime, while others recognize that under some circumstances a latent trait can be altered, influenced, or changed by experiences and interactions.

An example includes impulsivity:

Gottfredson and Hirschi trace the root cause of poor self-control to inadequate childrearing practices that begin soon after birth and can influence neural development. Once experiences are ingrained, the brain establishes a pattern of electrochemical activation that remains for life. Parents who refuse or are unable to monitor a child’s behavior, to recognize deviant behavior when it occurs, and to punish that behavior will produce children who lack self-control. In a sense, lack of self-control occurs naturally when steps are not taken to stop its development. These impulsive kids grow up to become poor parents, who use improper discipline, and produce another generation of impulsive kids.


Victimology: Four Major Theories

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Victimology attempts to understand why some people are more prone than others in becoming victims of crime. The textbook, Criminology by Larry J. Segal gives us four major theories on victimology.

Of course, these theories are not inferring right and wrong, they are establishing cause and effect. They do not suggest, 'as the victim did x, therefore the victim deserved it.' 

1. Victim Precipitation Theory

According to victim precipitation theory, some people may actually initiate the confrontation that eventually leads to their injury or death.


In 1971, Menachem Amir suggested female rape victims often contribute to their attacks by... pursuing a relationship with the rapist.

A woman may become the target of domestic violence when she increases her job status and her success results in a backlash from a jealous spouse or partner.

Victim Impulsivity:

A number of research efforts have found that both male and female victims have an impulsive personality that might render them abrasive and obnoxious, characteristics that might incite victimization.

It is possible that impulsive people are not only antagonistic and therefore more likely to become targets, but they also are risk takers who get involved in dangerous situations and fail to take precautions.

2. Lifestyle Theory

Some criminologists believe people may become crime victims because their lifestyle increases their exposure to criminal offenders.


Single women who drink frequently and have a prior history of being sexually assaulted are most likely to be assaulted on [college] campus.

People who belong to groups that have an extremely risky life—homeless, runaways, drug users—are at high risk for victimization; the more time they are exposed to street life, the greater their risk of becoming crime victims.

3. Deviant Place Theory

The more often victims visit dangerous places, the more likely they will be exposed to crime and violence. Victims do not encourage crime, but are victim prone because they reside in socially disorganized high-crime areas where they have the greatest risk of coming into contact with criminal offenders, irrespective of their own behavior or lifestyle.

4. Routine Activities Theory

...the volume and distribution of predatory crime (violent crimes against a person and crimes in which an offender attempts to steal an object directly) are closely related to the interaction of three variables that reflect the routine activities of the typical American lifestyle:

1. The availability of suitable targets, such as homes containing easily saleable goods

2. The absence of capable guardians, such as police, homeowners, neighbors, friends, and relatives

Even the most desperate criminal might hesitate to attack a well-defended target… undefended yet attractive target (not referring to sexual) becomes an irresistible objective for motivated criminals.

3. The presence of motivated offenders, such as a large number of unemployed teenagers. 


Logical Fallacy: Conjunction Fallacy

The 'conjunction fallacy' is the assumption that conjoined circumstance are more probable than a single. Single is always more probable that multiple.

Here's the break-down:

(a) When there are common elements in a in scenario with multiple options, 

(b) an additional element reduces the probability of occurrence.

(c) Therefore, x is alway more probable than x+y.


1. The Linda Problem

Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

Which is more probable?

1. Linda is a bank teller.

2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.*

You most likely picked number 2. This is wrong. Both options involve Linda being a bank teller, however, the second options adds another layer of probability. To explain it in another way, let’s reverse the situation.

Which is more probable?

1. Linda is in a feminist movement.

2. Linda is in a feminist movement and a bank tellers.

Again, option one is the right answer, as the probability of Linda being a bank teller adds an additional probability on top of her being a feminist.

2. Sam Harris v Cenk Uygur

The following is a great example of the conjunction fallacy in a real argument. Once you learn the Conjunction fallacy, watching Cenk in this video is very cringeworthy. The lesson here is that it’s crucial to know logical fallacies.

When Sam comments, 'this is a cute statement', he realises that Cenk just committed the conjunction fallacy. 

The video will automatically play from the correct position. If not, watch from 17:33 to 19:13.

3. The Dog and the Canine Species

While jogging around the neighborhood, you are more likely to get bitten by someone’s pet dog, than by any member of the canine species.

The above statement is clearly absurd. It does however demonstrate the faulty logic. Now, the explanation.

Actually, that is not the case.  “Someone’s pet dog,” assuming a real dog and not some robot dog, would also be a member of the canine species.  Therefore, the canine species includes wolves, coyotes, as well as your neighbor’s shih tzu, who is likely to bite you just because he’s pissed for being so small. **

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*Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases by Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic, Amos Tversky

**Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies by Bo Bennett, PhD

Categorisation: philosophy → logic → logical fallacies → formal

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