I am an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, and Executive Director of Education and Outreach activities for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. Previously I was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Tulane University Law School and The Murphy Institute; a Visiting Scholar at Vanderbilt University Law School; Associate Director of the MacArthur Foundation Law and Neuroscience Project; and a Lecturer at Harvard University. My research is aimed at improving the creation and administration of law and public policy in the United States. My primary research interests lie at the intersection of law and neuroscience, with a particular focus on on the domains of crime and education. I’ve also written on the human costs of war. Some recent publications are available for download on SSRN.
I received my B.A. from the University of Chicago (studying English and Economics), my J.D. from Harvard Law School (where I did my clinical work in a local district attorney’s office), and my Ph.D. in Government and Social Policy from the Harvard Government Department and the Harvard Kennedy School (completing a 550-page dissertation combining political science, psychology, public policy, and law).
I am always looking for new collaborators both within and beyond academia, so if you like what you see please send me an email. Students interested in research opportunities: please see the Research Assistant Hiring page.
The emerging field of law and neuroscience is growing fast: courts are seeing more cases each year; legislatures are considering brain science more frequently; and scholarship in neurolaw is steadily growing. I am lucky to be a part of these developments. I’ve written several pieces (available on SSRN), and as Executive Director of Education and Outreach for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, I plan events to introduce neurolaw to interested judges and lawyers across the country.
I am also co-authoring (with Owen Jones and Jeffrey Schall, both of Vanderbilt University) the first Law and Neuroscience coursebook. The casebook will be published by Aspen Publishers. The coursebook includes over 30 chapters in active development, covering topics such as responsibility, evidence, lie detection, adolescent brains, mental health, brain death, addiction, and brain injury. Please contact me if you would like more information on the book, or would like to review the draft materials. I used the materials to teach a Law and the Brain seminar at Tulane in Fall 2011, and I now use the materials to teach my Law and Neuroscience course at the University of Minnesota.
In Fall 2011 I published a criminal law article in the New York University Law Review: Sorting Guilty Minds (co-authored with Morris Hoffman, Owen Jones, Joshua Greene, and Rene Marois). The article was cited in a Petition For A Writ Of Certiorari filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2012. The article was also featured in The National Law Journal, and further picked up by a number of related outlets (see for example: here, here, and here). We are now working on follow-up studies. Abstract: Because punishable guilt requires that bad thoughts accompany bad acts, the Model Penal Code (MPC) typically requires that jurors infer the past mental state of a criminal defendant. More specifically, jurors must sort that mental state into one of four specific categories – purposeful, knowing, reckless, or negligent – which in turn defines the nature of the crime and the extent of the punishment. The MPC therefore assumes that ordinary people naturally sort mental states into these four categories with a high degree of accuracy. The MPC, now turning 50 years old, has previously escaped the scrutiny of comprehensive empirical research on these assumptions underlying its culpability architecture. Our new empirical studies find that even without the aid of the MPC definitions, subjects were able to regularly and accurately distinguish among purposeful, negligent, and blameless conduct. Nevertheless, our subjects failed to distinguish reliably between knowing and reckless conduct. This failure can have significant sentencing consequences in some types of crimes, especially homicide.
America’s urban school districts educate a majority of the country’s children, and many of these big cities continue to face a myriad of challenges in achieving acceptable levels of student achievement. One possible route to reform, promoted heavily by the Obama administration, is to put big city mayors in charge of school districts. Through a series of empirical studies (including the co-authored 2007 book, The Education Mayor), I have examined the effect of these mayoral control laws on student achievement, district financial health, and public confidence in the school system. While earlier work suggested clear gains from mayoral involvement, I am presently completing new empirical studies which raise important questions about the long-term efficacy of these statutes.
One of these studies, Community Support For Mayoral Control Of Urban School Districts: A Critical Reexamination, is an empirical analysis arguing that statutory safeguards for democracy — in the form of citywide referenda on mayoral control — are not adequate because of unequal patterns of participation.
The culmination of six years of research, The Casualty Gap was published in 2010. The book, which I co-authored with friend and former Harvard graduate school classmate Douglas Kriner (now an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston University), shows how American war casualties have hailed disproportionately from socio-economically disadvantaged communities since the 1950s and explores the ramifications of these gaps for politics, policymaking and the vibrancy of American democracy. We wrote this op-ed featured in the Los Angeles Times on Memorial Day Weekend 2010. In addition to the book, we have articles published or forthcoming in: The American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, and Legislative Studies Quarterly.
In conjunction with my research on neurolaw, I am looking to extend work in this policy domain by shifting focus from fatal to non-fatal casualties. Of importance are questions related to veterans’ mental health, veterans in the criminal justice system, and coverage for brain injuries sustained during combat.