Courts make decisions on the basis of the facts in front of them, but those facts may be atypical. The resulting rule might not make much sense as applied to more typical cases. This is the idea behind the Oddball Doctrine, as discussed by Illinois law professor Suja Thomas in this forthcoming paper. The abstract of the paper brought to mind Judge Henry Friendly’s observations from 35 years ago:
[C]ourts can act on questions of social policy only at the call of litigants; then, they generally must act although postponement might be the wiser course. While courts are, or should be, aware of the effects of their decisions beyond the case sub judice, their response is often triggered by outrageous facts that may not be at all representative. Professor Morris R. Cohen considered the judicial system to be “intellectually the weakest part of our government,” having “the least opportunity to get information on the issues which it has to decide.”
Henry J. Friendly, The Courts and Social Policy: Substance and Procedure, 33 U. Miami L. Rev. 21, 22-23 (1978).