LSAT Reading : Inferences About Passage Content in Law Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Passage Content In Law Passages

Adapted from The Common Law, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1881)

To present a general view of the Common Law, other tools are needed besides logic. It is something to show that the consistency of a system requires a particular result, but it is not all. The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow-men, have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics. In order to know what it is, we must know what it has been, and what it tends to become. We must alternately consult history and existing theories of legislation. But the most difficult labor will be to understand the combination of the two into new products at every stage. The substance of the law at any given time pretty nearly corresponds, so far as it goes, with what is then understood to be convenient; but its form and machinery, and the degree to which it is able to work out desired results, depend very much upon its past.

In Massachusetts today, while, on the one hand, there are a great many rules which are quite sufficiently accounted for by their manifest good sense, on the other, there are some which can only be understood by reference to the infancy of procedure among the German tribes, or to the social condition of Rome under the Decemvirs.

I shall use the history of our law so far as it is necessary to explain a conception or to interpret a rule, but no further. In doing so there are two errors equally to be avoided both by writer and reader. One is that of supposing, because an idea seems very familiar and natural to us, that it has always been so. Many things which we take for granted have had to be laboriously fought out or thought out in past times. The other mistake is the opposite one of asking too much of history. We start with man full grown. It may be assumed that the earliest barbarian whose practices are to be considered, had a good many of the same feelings and passions as ourselves.

Which of the following statements would the author of the passage be most likely to disagree with most strongly?

Possible Answers:

There is, strictly speaking, no law apart from society; what is found in the one is found in the other.

The law is itself lawful, and the one who understands its first principles can reason to its conclusions.

Human nature does not change, but the circumstances in which men live do; thus, some laws of great antiquity ought to still be followed, but others have outlived their use.

In studying the paths of the law, we can discern certain principles that appear time and again, and, inasmuch as they are useful for the present, ought to learn them.

The story of law is seen in its history, a history that includes the present day and even the future.

Correct answer:

The law is itself lawful, and the one who understands its first principles can reason to its conclusions.

Explanation:

The credited response most closely matches the idea, rejected by the author, that law can be conducted as if by syllogism, proceeding from known premises always and truly via logic to certain conclusions. The picture painted by the author is one in which many factors—history, ethics, society and its changes, and "what is then considered to be convenient"—combine and meld to form the body of law, a sometimes disorderly and not strictly logical body. The other responses, while perhaps not always strictly in agreement with all of the author's nuances and ideas, do not so directly contradict the central thesis of the passage.

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Passage Content In Law Passages

To create the Trafficking in Persons (TIPS) Report, the Secretary of State ranks countries according to a system of tiers based on the efforts those countries make against human trafficking.  According to the United States, the minimum conditions that a country must meet to be a country in good standing, designated as a Tier 1 country, are somewhat subjective.  There must be “serious and sustained efforts to eliminate human trafficking,” such as prohibiting and punishing acts of human trafficking, taking measures to deter offenses in the future, creating public awareness, and protecting victims of human trafficking. 

Tier 2 countries do not fully comply with the standards for Tier 1 countries, but are making significant efforts to do so.  Tier 2 Watch List countries meet the same criteria as Tier 2 countries, but also satisfy one of the following: 1) the number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or significantly increasing; 2) no evidence can be shown that there are increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or 3) the finding that a country was making significant efforts to comply with minimum standards was based on that country’s commitment to take future steps over the next year.  Tier 3 countries do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.  The penalties for Tier 3 countries include being subject to certain sanctions such as: the withdrawal of non-humanitarian and non-trade related foreign assistance, not receiving funding for educational and cultural exchange programs, and potential U.S. opposition to assistance from international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The TIPS Report relies on U.S. missions to regularly meet with foreign government officials in order to gain information about human trafficking in countries throughout the world. It is the world’s most comprehensive report on human trafficking, and is trusted as an accurate depiction of the policies and laws being used in various countries.  Specifically, the TIPS Report evaluates countries’ efforts against human trafficking based on the efforts taken in the areas of prosecution, prevention, and protection. The evaluation of a country’s prosecution efforts is based on whether laws against human trafficking exist and are actively enforced against perpetrators.  Prevention efforts should focus on raising public awareness about human trafficking and rectifying laws that make certain populations more vulnerable to human trafficking than others.  Finally, protection efforts seek to address the needs of existing or potential victims.

It can be inferred from the passage that the primary purpose of the TIPS report is to:

Possible Answers:

Discourage countries from passively accepting the levels of human trafficking within their borders

Create a system of incentives for countries to fight human trafficking, while also tracking which countries are effectively addressing the issue

Enable to the United States to exercise its power in the arena of humanitarian affairs 

Motivate countries to implement methods that fight human trafficking by using the prevention, protection and prosecution techniques

Provide a consistent system for documenting how various countries respond to the issue of human trafficking

Correct answer:

Create a system of incentives for countries to fight human trafficking, while also tracking which countries are effectively addressing the issue

Explanation:

The best answer will cover the two primary purposes behind the TIPS report: to instill change in how countries address the issue of human trafficking, and to also document the issue more effectively. The correct answer choice mentions both of these priorities:

Create a system of incentives for countries to fight human trafficking, while also tracking which countries are effectively addressing the issue

Example Question #2 : Inferences About Passage Content In Law Passages

Adapted from The Path of Law, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1897)

When we study law we are not studying a mystery but a well known profession. We are studying what we shall want in order to appear before judges, or to advise people in such a way as to keep them out of court. The reason why it is a profession, why people will pay lawyers to argue for them or to advise them, is that in societies like ours the command of the public force is intrusted to the judges in certain cases, and the whole power of the state will be put forth, if necessary, to carry out their judgments and decrees. People want to know under what circumstances and how far they will run the risk of coming against what is so much stronger than themselves, and hence it becomes a business to find out when this danger is to be feared. The object of our study, then, is prediction, the prediction of the incidence of the public force through the instrumentality of the courts.

The means of the study are a body of reports, of treatises, and of statutes, in this country and in England, extending back for six hundred years, and now increasing annually by hundreds. In these sibylline leaves are gathered the scattered prophecies of the past upon the cases in which the axe will fall. These are what properly have been called the oracles of the law. Far the most important and pretty nearly the whole meaning of every new effort of legal thought is to make these prophecies more precise, and to generalize them into a thoroughly connected system. The process is one, from a lawyer's statement of a case, eliminating as it does all the dramatic elements with which his client's story has clothed it, and retaining only the facts of legal import, up to the final analyses and abstract universals of theoretic jurisprudence. The reason why a lawyer does not mention that his client wore a white hat when he made a contract, while Mrs. Quickly would be sure to dwell upon it along with the parcel gilt goblet and the sea-coal fire, is that he foresees that the public force will act in the same way whatever his client had upon his head. It is to make the prophecies easier to be remembered and to be understood that the teachings of the decisions of the past are put into general propositions and gathered into textbooks, or that statutes are passed in a general form. The primary rights and duties with which jurisprudence busies itself again are nothing but prophecies. One of the many evil effects of the confusion between legal and moral ideas, about which I shall have something to say in a moment, is that theory is apt to get the cart before the horse, and consider the right or the duty as something existing apart from and independent of the consequences of its breach, to which certain sanctions are added afterward. But, as I shall try to show, a legal duty so called is nothing but a prediction that if a man does or omits certain things he will be made to suffer in this or that way by judgment of the court; and so of a legal right.

The number of our predictions when generalized and reduced to a system is not unmanageably large. They present themselves as a finite body of dogma which may be mastered within a reasonable time. It is a great mistake to be frightened by the ever-increasing number of reports. The reports of a given jurisdiction in the course of a generation take up pretty much the whole body of the law, and restate it from the present point of view. We could reconstruct the corpus from them if all that went before were burned.

Which of the following views is most nearly opposed to the main thesis of the author?

Possible Answers:

The past dictates the present, and what has come before what comes now—indeed, what is to come. Thus, the student of law who knows the greatest part of the body of past law will have the best chance of predicting the outcome of present and future cases.

The proper subject of the study of law itself, as opposed to individual laws, is to derrive and deduce legal principles from first principles.

Nobody can escape the "long arm of the law," and all fear it; thus, they seek the advice of attornies and counselors to avoid crossing those well-defined lines that are poorly known to the layman in which the law must act.

The law considers no detail irrelevant, no piece of evidence too small, in making its decisions; the most weighty matters are sometimes decided on what seem to be the most trivial of details.

The law is often obscure, and open to interpretation; thus, the best lawyer is the one who can work in these "penumbras of the law," fashioning the best interpretation of it in the open spaces between certain cases.

Correct answer:

The proper subject of the study of law itself, as opposed to individual laws, is to derrive and deduce legal principles from first principles.

Explanation:

While it is unlikely that the author would agree with any of the responses, as they either have no relevance to the passage or contradict details of it, the credited response is the one that most nearly contradicts the main idea of the passage: that jurisprudence is concerned not with derriving legal principles from eternal first principles of morality, but with predicting how courts will act in certain situations given past cases and statutes.

Example Question #4 : Inferences About Passage Content In Law Passages

Adapted from The Path of Law, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1897)

When we study law we are not studying a mystery but a well known profession. We are studying what we shall want in order to appear before judges, or to advise people in such a way as to keep them out of court. The reason why it is a profession, why people will pay lawyers to argue for them or to advise them, is that in societies like ours the command of the public force is intrusted to the judges in certain cases, and the whole power of the state will be put forth, if necessary, to carry out their judgments and decrees. People want to know under what circumstances and how far they will run the risk of coming against what is so much stronger than themselves, and hence it becomes a business to find out when this danger is to be feared. The object of our study, then, is prediction, the prediction of the incidence of the public force through the instrumentality of the courts.

The means of the study are a body of reports, of treatises, and of statutes, in this country and in England, extending back for six hundred years, and now increasing annually by hundreds. In these sibylline leaves are gathered the scattered prophecies of the past upon the cases in which the axe will fall. These are what properly have been called the oracles of the law. Far the most important and pretty nearly the whole meaning of every new effort of legal thought is to make these prophecies more precise, and to generalize them into a thoroughly connected system. The process is one, from a lawyer's statement of a case, eliminating as it does all the dramatic elements with which his client's story has clothed it, and retaining only the facts of legal import, up to the final analyses and abstract universals of theoretic jurisprudence. The reason why a lawyer does not mention that his client wore a white hat when he made a contract, while Mrs. Quickly would be sure to dwell upon it along with the parcel gilt goblet and the sea-coal fire, is that he foresees that the public force will act in the same way whatever his client had upon his head. It is to make the prophecies easier to be remembered and to be understood that the teachings of the decisions of the past are put into general propositions and gathered into textbooks, or that statutes are passed in a general form. The primary rights and duties with which jurisprudence busies itself again are nothing but prophecies. One of the many evil effects of the confusion between legal and moral ideas, about which I shall have something to say in a moment, is that theory is apt to get the cart before the horse, and consider the right or the duty as something existing apart from and independent of the consequences of its breach, to which certain sanctions are added afterward. But, as I shall try to show, a legal duty so called is nothing but a prediction that if a man does or omits certain things he will be made to suffer in this or that way by judgment of the court; and so of a legal right.

The number of our predictions when generalized and reduced to a system is not unmanageably large. They present themselves as a finite body of dogma which may be mastered within a reasonable time. It is a great mistake to be frightened by the ever-increasing number of reports. The reports of a given jurisdiction in the course of a generation take up pretty much the whole body of the law, and restate it from the present point of view. We could reconstruct the corpus from them if all that went before were burned.

Which of the following most closely matches the author's opinion on why laypeople consult lawyers?

Possible Answers:

To be advised on what courts have decided in analagous situations to one they find themselves in

To learn what remedies there are for certain grievences according to the letter of the law

To learn which actions the law explicitly permits or forbids

To determine the scope and force of statutes and case law in certain instances

To try to predict which actions will, or will not, likely result in their suffering legal penalties

Correct answer:

To try to predict which actions will, or will not, likely result in their suffering legal penalties

Explanation:

The focus of the author is not on the letter of the law, but on its effects, and not strictly on learning the content or past of the law for its own sake, but rather for making predictions about future actions. According to the author, people consult attornies, whose primary job is "the prediction of the incidence of the public force through the instrumentality of the courts" in order "to know under what circumstances and how far they will run the risk of coming against what is so much stronger than themselves, and hence it becomes a business to find out when this danger is to be feared." In other words, the main job of an attorney from the view of a layperson is to predict what concrete action, if any, will be taken in a given instance and to counsel their client on the best way to avoid suffering judicial penalties.

Example Question #5 : Inferences About Passage Content In Law Passages

Adapted from Wilkerson v. Utah, 99 U.S. 130 (1878)

Cruel and unusual punishments are forbidden by the Constitution, but the authorities referred to are quite sufficient to show that the punishment of shooting as a mode of executing the death penalty for the crime of murder in the first degree is not included in that category, within the meaning of the eighth amendment. Soldiers convicted of desertion or other capital military offences are in the great majority of cases sentenced to be shot, and the ceremony for such occasions is given in great fullness by the writers upon the subject of courts-martial.

Where the conviction is in the civil tribunals, the rule of the common law was that the sentence or judgment must be pronounced or rendered by the court in which the prisoner was tried or finally condemned, and the rule was universal that it must be such as is annexed to the crime by law. Of these, says Blackstone, some are capital, which extend to the life of the offender, and consist generally in being hanged by the neck till dead.

Such is the general statement of that commentator, but he admits that in very atrocious crimes other circumstances of terror, pain, or disgrace were sometimes superadded. Cases mentioned by the author are where the prisoner was drawn or dragged to the place of execution, in treason; or where he was emboweled alive, beheaded, and quartered, in high treason. Mention is also made of public dissection in murder, and burning alive in treason committed by a female. History confirms the truth of these atrocities, but the commentator states that the humanity of the nation by tacit consent allowed the mitigation of such parts of those judgments as savored of torture or cruelty, and he states that they were seldom strictly carried into effect.

Difficulty would attend the effort to define with exactness the extent of the constitutional provision which provides that cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted; but it is safe to affirm that punishments of torture, such as those mentioned by the commentator referred to, and all others in the same line of unnecessary cruelty, are forbidden by that amendment to the Constitution.

It can be inferred from the information provided in the passage that "Blackstone" is __________.

Possible Answers:

an expert on medieval forms of torture

a compendium of old legal cases

a politician in favor of more extreme forms of punishment

a notable legal authority

someone who holds views that oppose the author's

Correct answer:

a notable legal authority

Explanation:

Blackstone is briefly cited at the end of the second paragraph with no introduction and then called "that commentator" in the next paragraph. More importantly, the author uses Blackstone as a source on older traditions of punishment, but all in the context of the legal precedent those traditions supply. The only conclusion that can be drawn from the text is that Blackstone is a notable legal authority.

Example Question #6 : Inferences About Passage Content In Law Passages

"Lynch Law" by William Floyd (2015)

“Lynch Law” as it was known can appear as a peculiar feature of the past only. Never in the present day does a mob, carrying torches, clubs, and small firearms, descend upon a county jail to take from a cell an accused criminal who is supposed to have committed a crime so heinous and unspeakable that the crowd believes the only justice is to find the nearest sturdy tree to hang the accused from. This action, so common in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly in the Southern portion of the United States, died out after World War II, with only a few isolated incidents, roundly disparaged, revealing the last gasp of the Lynch Law.

Perhaps the exact mechanisms of lynching culture do not exist, features of a bygone society, more rural, prejudiced, and violent than that which replaced it. Yet the attitudes have never left the consciousness of many Americans. On the chyrons of the nightly news and splashed across front pages of newspapers, accused criminals are only treated as such out of formality. In actuality, the tone of the reports reveals that the poor soul accused of a crime is assumed to be found guilty once the proper processes of the judicial system have run their course. Through a nod to a presumption of innocence and unwavering fidelity to the slow march of the courts, any sensible citizen can congratulate themselves that they are well beyond their ancestors, whether by blood or thought, who invoked the lynch law.

In actuality, a person can be arrested on the most base of suspicions, that they have the same vague hairstyle, shirt color, or peculiar mannerism of suspect’s description given by a witness. Then this poor soul will have to be questioned by any number of detectives, who look for the slightest pause, tic, or odd gaze. And heaven help him should he forget where he was for some small sliver of time. At that point, he is all but done for in front of the criminal justice system, being as he is with some apparent similarity to the description of the suspect, no alibi, and the accusations of police and prosecutors. While he is exceedingly lucky not to have to worry about being taken out of his cell and murdered underneath a large tree, he is still shunted forward to a removal from society after his placement in a labyrinthine prison system.

Based on the information presented in the passage, it can be inferred that ___________.

Possible Answers:

lynchings most often happened against defendants who were not part of the community

lynchings were eliminated from American society after one particularly grisly circumstance

lynchings most often occurred in more rural areas

the criminal justice system of the past worked hard to create justice and fairness

lawyers in the past were the only ones fighting against lynching

Correct answer:

lynchings most often occurred in more rural areas

Explanation:

The author presents lots of information about the way that lynchings often happened, including the attitudes that caused lynchings to happen and how these remain. However, there is little to show where they happened more or who was in favor or opposed to lynching at the time. The only small indication is that lynchings are said to belong to an era that was "more rural, prejudiced, and violent."

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