Chicago Journal of International Law

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Do legal judgments influence people's attitudes and beliefs concerning contested events? This Article builds on studies from three disclines-law, psychology, and political science-and employs experimental methods to shed light on the impact of legal institutions on their intended audiences. The Article identifies a rising "legalization of truth" phenomenon-the adoption of legal discourse to construct and interpret facts outside the courthouse. It argues that legal truth, while providing a framework of legal terminology and conventions to analyze and understand facts, comes with a price tag: it triggers cognitive and emotional biases that frustrate efforts to disseminate controversial information and to resolve factual disputes; and it lacks the emotional appeal, particpatory value, and social cues that moral expressions or other tpes of social truth- telling entail. To demonstrate the legalization of truth process and to measure its impact on attitudes and beliefs, this Article focuses on the practice of international fact-finding. In recent years, international fact-finding has become a dominant response to armed conflicts and political violence around the world. Lacking compulsory jurisdiction, international fact-finding bodies have adopted legal discourse, assuming that legal reports uniformly inform the relevant publics with an authoritative account of what happened and motivate domestic sanctioning of in-group offenders.