, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 1-43

Is there a Burden of Questioning?

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In some recent cases in Anglo-American law juries ruled contrary to an expert's testimony even though that testimony was never challenged, contradicted or questioned in the trial. These cases are shown to raise some theoretical questions about formal dialogue systems in computational dialectical systems for legal argumentation of the kind recently surveyed by Bench-Capon (1997) and Hage (2000) in this journal. In such systems, there is a burden of proof, meaning that if the respondent questions an argument, the proponent is obliged to offer some support for it give it up. But what should happen in a formal system of dialogue if the proponent puts forward an argument and the respondent fails to critically question it, and simply moves on to another issue? Is this some kind of fault that should have implications? Should it be taken to imply that, by default, the respondent has conceded the argument? What, if anything, should be the outcome of such a failure to question in a formal dialogue system of argumentation? These questions are considered by examining some legal cases of expert opinion testimony in relation rules for formal dialectical argumentation systems.

This revised version was published online in August 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.