From false convictions to botched executions, from erroneous admission of evidence in a criminal trial to misunderstandings that arise in the process of creating contracts, law is awash in mistakes. These mistakes can be unintentional deviations from expected practices or the result of intentional actions that produce unintended negative consequences. They may become part of a process of response and correction or be accepted as an inevitable cost of action. Some mistakes are external to law itself, such as errors in an agreement made by two private parties. Others are made by legal actors in the course of their work; for example, a police officer’s failing to obtain a search warrant when one was required.
The essays in Law’s Mistakes explore the things that law recognizes as errors and the way it responds to them. They identify the jurisprudential and political perspectives that underlie different understandings of what is or is not a legal mistake, and examine the fraught, contested, and evolving relationship between law and error. And they offer templates for thinking about what mistakes can tell us about the aspirations and limits of law, and for understanding how our imagining of law is enabled and shaped by its juxtaposition to a condition labeled mistake.
In addition to the volume editors, contributors include Paul Schiff Berman, Sonali Chakravarti, Jody L. Medeira, Stewart Motha, Kunal Parker, and Jordan Steiker.