Vol 19 No 1 (2019)

The Semantic deference in trial

Michele Ubertone
CIRSFID, University of Bologna
Published July 8, 2019


Experts in subjects other than law are taking on an increasingly important role in contemporary legal systems. Professionals specialized in all kinds of disciplines (e.g. physicians, engineers, chemists, town planners…) are often as indispensable as lawyers for the application of many legal provisions. Traditionally, their task has been understood as confined to that of solving questions of fact. It is normal for a judge to rely on expert opinions to decide whether a certain event has taken place, but it would seem rather odd for a judge to rely on such opinions to decide whether that event has been brought about illegally, or whether it is otherwise legally relevant. The thesis I advance in this article is that, in fact, due to what Hilary Putnam has called “the division of linguistic labor,” experts are often left to decide on important questions of law, as well.