The Womens’ and Childrens’ Advocacy Project at New England Law|Boston has developed a first-in-the-nation program that brings together researchers and law students to facilitate the expeditious delivery of anti-violence research into legal practice and policy.
Utilizing the combined skills of JD and PhD students, NELB has developed a simple system for bringing science to law by providing a quick assessment of methodological reliability of selected research, under applicable legal standards, so that all courts can more readily incorporate important anti- violence research to legal decision-making.
It currently takes at least five years before new research has measurable effect in practice; even longer before it begins to affect legal practice and policy, especially when the research might benefit those without the means to afford expert witnesses and highly-skilled legal counsel. This is partly due to the fact that legal professionals generally lack sufficient understanding of scientific methods and rarely have adequate skills to advocate effectively for the admissibility or inadmissibility of certain studies. Similarly, researchers are not trained in law and lack sufficient skills to facilitate the swift transmission of new science into legal practice.
Working together, the JD and PhD students teach each other the legal and scientific processes and use their respective discipline’s rules and methods to critique a chosen study for the purpose of facilitating or inhibiting its admissibility in court. The resulting critique is then made available to the public, for free, so that any attorney or pro se advocate can advocate for or against the admissibility of particular research without the expenditure of significant time or resources.
This project will not only help educate across disciplines, but also will help researchers be more mindful about the potential usefulness of research in legal proceedings as their work is being designed. Likewise, the project will help lawyers better understand the meaning of methodologically sound science so that the relative weight of relevant research in all matters involving interpersonal violence can be more effectively admitted or excluded in legal proceedings.
The primary focus of this project is to create an integrated understanding of language and standards in science and law so that good science makes its way more quickly into legal decision-making, and
bad science is kept out, at the trial and appellate policy-making levels. Too often, bad science finds its way into judicial proceedings simply because lawyers and pro se litigants are unprepared to debate the integrity, evidentiary weight, reliability, admissibility or meaning of the information. Bad science (or no science) can undermine fairness in outcomes at the trial level, and harm the development of legal doctrines when cases makes their way to appellate courts.
Lawyers and pro se litigants will be able to make fast and effective use of particular research by utilizing information from the memorandum and offering it to a judge in any case where the research is relevant. Similarly, researchers who strive to develop useful research in the area of interpersonal violence can read the project’s analyses to develop a better understanding of the factors that make research more impact-full on human behavior through the mechanism of law.
Lost in the Mall by Loftus, et al.
OTHER INDEPENDENT CRITIQUES
Jennifer Hoult’s Excellent Article on Parental Alienation Syndrome