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Yogi and the Law

The great philosopher Yogi Berra once said about his profession, “Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.” As you will note, this adds up to more than 100%. A well known teacher of evidence who has served as a judge for three decades once told me that between facts and law, facts count for 99%. At this point, I think it important to recall that above-cited “Yogi-ism” and to say that law counts for 50%. Why?

I believe that the judge was only trying to point out how you can never minimize the facts of a case. Perhaps he was concerned that young lawyers, fresh from a law school education, which tends to emphasize appellate decisions, would mistakenly overemphasize law at a cost of paying attention to facts. That is certainly worthwhile point. However, with all due respect, law provides the framework to assess facts and to help us to determine if a case is viable. The two work in concert and actually require additional factors to determine conclusively viability and worth.

Under certain circumstances, judges can remove from a jury’s consideration aspects of a claim or even whole claims. They do this when granting summary judgment where “there is no genuine issue of material facts.” Inextricably linked to that decision is the law and the facts. Maybe Yogi had it right and, in the legal context, facts are 90% and the other half is law.

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