golden rule argument

Primary tabs

Golden rule argument is an argument made by a lawyer during a jury trial to ask the jurors to put themselves in the place of the victim or the injured person and deliver the verdict that they would wish to receive if they were in that person's position. For example, if the plaintiff in a personal injury case has suffered severe scarring, the plaintiff's lawyer might ask the jury to come back with the verdict they themselves would want to receive had they been disfigured in such a manner. Generally, the Golden Rule Argument is condemned by the judges and is considered improper in some states because jurors are supposed to consider the facts of a case in an objective manner free from personal bias

In U.S. v. Palma, while condemning the Golden Rule, the Eighth Circuit held that “A so-called ‘golden rule’ argument which asks the jurors to place themselves in the position of a party ‘is universally condemned because it encourages the jury to ‘depart from neutrality and to decide the case on the basis of personal interest and bias rather than on the evidence.’”

[Last updated in January of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]