LSAT 90 – Section 4 – Question 16

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT90 S4 Q16
Weaken +Weak
+Medium 148.293 +SubsectionMedium

This is a Weakening question.

The journalist says when judges do not maintain strict control over their courtrooms, lawyers often try to influence jury verdicts by using inflammatory language and by badgering witnesses. And these obstructive behaviors hinder the jury's efforts to reach a correct verdict. Therefore, whenever lawyers engage in such behavior, it is reasonable to doubt whether the verdict is correct.

Does the conclusion follow? We know obstructive behaviors hinder the jury's effort to reach a correct verdict. But hinder isn't the same thing as prevent. That assumes the hindrance is effective. It's possible that the hindrance prevents the jury from reaching a correct verdict but it's also possible that the hindrance is simply an annoyance, something that the jury can shrug off. The point is that to hinder is just that, to hinder. It's not as dispositive as the argument wants us to believe.

Answer Choice (A) says court proceedings overseen by judges who are strict in controlling lawyers' behaviors are known to result sometimes in incorrect verdicts. I am already not interested in (A) because the argument is contemplating a specific situation where judges do not maintain control over their courtrooms. (A) does not engage with this premise and tells us that in a different world where judges do control their courtrooms, juries also reach wrong verdicts.

To make (A) better, we can edit the conclusion to say that only when lawyers engage in such behavior is it reasonable to doubt the veracity of the verdict. This version of the conclusion is saying that when we have a reason to doubt a verdict, it must be because of obstructive behavior. And (A) would weaken by illustrating a counterexample: juries mess up even when lawyers do not engage in obstructive behavior.

You will see a very similar cookie-cutter wrong Answer Choice (B) in Question 24 of this section, which also tells you to forget the situation at hand and talks about a different world. Just as you find patterns that repeat in the stimulus and correct answers, you will find recurring patterns in the wrong answer choices as well.

Answer Choice (B) says lawyers tend to be less concerned than are judges about whether the outcomes of jury trials are just or not. This is a comparative claim and somewhat obvious. We have an adversarial system where lawyers are concerned about winning and judges are concerned about justice. At best, (B) explains why lawyers have to be kept in check because they are not so concerned about justice.

Answer Choice (C) says people who are influenced by inflammatory language are very unlikely to admit they were influenced by such language. Let’s give (C) a charitable reading and say that the people influenced by inflammatory language here are the jurors. But even with this reading, (C) does not weaken the argument. If jurors were influenced, it does not matter if they are humble or reflective enough to admit that they were. If anything, (C) just tells us that this hindrance might actually lead to reasonable doubt about the verdict.

Answer Choice (E) says the selection of jurors is based in part on an assessment of the likelihood that they are free from bias. This is true in reality. For example, in a corporation versus an individual case, you would want jurors who are not already biased against corporations. However, the argument is not about bias. (E) would have been better if it said the selection of jurors is based in part on an assessment of the likelihood that they are free from being influenced by inflammatory language.

But even then, (E) would not be a great answer choice because it is denying the premise that obstructive behaviors do hinder the jury's effort to some extent. And while you do sometimes see explicit contradictions to a premise in the LSAT, this is generally not how the test writers weaken arguments.

Correct Answer Choice (D) says obstructive courtroom behavior by a lawyer is seldom effective in cases where jurors are also presented with legitimate evidence. This is the only answer choice that addresses the gap between the premise and the conclusion.

Remember we said that just because obstructive behaviors hinder the jury's efforts, we cannot assume that this hindrance is effective. And (D) confirms this. It says there's this other factor, legitimate evidence, that renders obstructive behaviors ineffective.

You might object and say (D) requires an assumption that cases where jurors are presented with legitimate evidence are most cases, or at minimum, the cases where lawyers engage in obstructive behaviors. But this is not an unreasonable assumption. We have a functioning judicial system with robust rules of evidence, and in the vast majority of cases, there is legitimate evidence. You might think it is unfair to be expected to know this, but what you are expected to know is how to identify the assumption that (D) requires and compare it to assumptions required by the other answer choices. While (D) may not be the perfect answer choice, it still is the best answer choice.

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