Emotional Appeals and Moral Standards: Rhetorical Arguments in Court Cases

Mary L. Schuster

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


In this article, I analyze 73 circuit court opinions in which due process rights are weighed according to a little-known legal test called shocks the conscience. I also offer my observations of a federal trial in the U.S. district court in 2015 upon which the test was imposed. I reveal how requiring the shocks-the-conscience test confirms the authority of the state and silences those who have been singled out as individuals or as groups to be deprived of constitutional rights. In particular, professional communication scholars who examine emotional appeals as rhetorical strategies should find this article of interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages30
Specialist publicationJournal of Technical Writing and Communication
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • emotional appeals
  • law
  • legal arguments
  • moral standards
  • power
  • professional communication and activism
  • rhetorical arguments


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