Civility and the Burden of Proof


What should we presume about our neighbor? In this Article, I intend to give a partial answer to this question. My suggestion is motivated by two related considerations. First, there is today an appreciable deficit in the generosity with which we appraise one another's conduct. This is an observation not limited to the legal or political context, though it is particularly evident there. It is manifested by a general inclination to blame others for our troubles and, more specifically, a readiness to assume the worst about others' motives, attitudes, or conduct. I do not claim that this phenomenon is worse today than in other historical periods; scapegoating, for example, has a long pedigree. It is, rather, a recurring problem that requires perpetual attention.' Second, and this is a point directed more specifically at the legal culture, there is a fairly widespread failure to appreciate fully, in some contexts even to recognize, the importance of such generosity in our public life. I illustrate this phenomenon in the following pages.


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Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy

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17 Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 647 (1994)

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COinS Dale A. Nance Faculty Bio