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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

“Blue Sky Banter: Judge Rakoff on Science and the Law”

Interesting comments by Judge Rakoff are available in a thirty minute podcast interview on intersections between science and law. Among other things, he commented on the need for more training in science, ranging from more education by judicial education groups (e.g. the Federal Judicial Center), and use of “science day” hearings. He also commented on the use of special masters with scientific training.  Much of the commentary related to neuroscience, including possible permanent changes arising from chronic pain.

One way to access the podcast is through a January 24, 2018 post at the CLS Blue Sky blog. It explains:

“The U.S. district court judge in Manhattan speaks with Reynolds Holding about the surprising ways in which science intersects with the law. From forensic evidence in criminal cases to gambling addictions in financial fraud cases to global warming disputes in environmental cases, the issues increasingly require judges and lawyers to have more than a passing knowledge of scientific principles and even the workings of the mind. Click on “read more” for a link to the conversation on the Blue Sky Banter podcast.”

The podcast mentioned that Judge Rakoff also teaches a course on science and law at Columbia. The online course catalog describes the course as follows:

“L8600 S. Science and the Courts

Section 001, Fall 2015

Section Information

Section Description Provided by Instructor

Science plays an ever increasing role in the courts, typified by everything from forensic evidence in criminal cases to global warming disputes in environmental cases to genome patent disputes in intellectual property cases to prescription drug defects in mass tort cases to adolescent brain development evidence in death penalty cases, and so forth. This seminar addresses the difficulties that courts encounter in dealing with scientific evidence and scientific concepts, both at the practical level and at the jurisprudential level. Examples will be drawn from recent cases and current controversies An important focus of the seminar will be on how judges, juries, and lawyers untrained in science can best handle scientific issues with which they are presented.

No course prerequisite or prior scientific knowledge is required. Attendance at the first class is mandatory for all registered students and for wait-listed students who wish to be considered for admission to the seminar.”

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