Law and Neuroscience
Since 2007, the Gruter Institute has participated in a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation aimed at integrating new developments in neuroscience, a field of biological research that is rapidly growing, into the U.S. legal system. The Gruter Institute has worked together with a distinguished and interdisciplinary group of scientists, legal scholars, jurists, and philosophers from across the country to understand the growing influence of neuroscience on the legal system. The Gruter Institute has led the education and outreach work under the grant, overseeing numerous yearly conferences aimed at educating state and federal judges and others in the legal arena about neuroscientific findings relevant to the law. The Project was supported by an initial, three-year $10 million grant for the MacArthur Foundation. A follow up proposal is currently in process.
Specifically, the mission of the Education & Outreach Program has been to move the knowledge created by the Research Networks into the deliberation of judges, legislators, and other policy makers, catalyzing change for the public good. In addition, the Education and Outreach Program has offered insight to media and academic leaders on the intersection of neuroscience and the law and of the research findings of the Networks.
As planned under the grant, the Education and Outreach Program was intended to organize conferences each year for judges, legislators, practicing lawyers, news reporters and other targeted policy makers. These conferences featured lectures and discussions, with priority given to members of the Networks as presenters, as well as other leading contributors to the growing knowledge of the field. The goal has been to educate legal professionals about neuroscience’s relevance to the law and to assist Network members to learn about each others’ fields as they start their interdisciplinary dialogue. Network members also were able to gather feedback from practicing legal professionals about which kinds of research will be most useful in real courtrooms. Plans called for some of these conferences to be held in conjunction with the National Judicial College and the Federal Judicial Center, the leading judicial education organizations on the state and federal level respectively, as well as state judicial educators.