News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Dr. Robert Kinscherff Answers: Should We Ever Sentence Juveniles as Adults? (VIDEO)

CLBB Faculty Member Dr. Robert Kinscherff spoke on Tuesday, May 10, at Harvard Law School about juvenile justice and the treatment of adolescents versus adults within the criminal justice system. The event, hosted by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, was free and open to the public. About the event:

Nearly a quarter of a million youth are tried, sentenced, or imprisoned as adults every year across the United States. On any given day, ten thousand youth are detained or incarcerated in adult jails and prisons.

Putting a human face to these sobering statistics, Boy With A Knife tells the story of Karter Kane Reed, who, at the age of sixteen, was sentenced to life in an adult prison for a murder he committed in 1993 in a high school classroom. Twenty years later, in 2013, he became one of the few men in Massachusetts to sue the Parole Board and win his freedom.

The emotional and devastating narrative takes us step by step through Karter’s crime, trial, punishment, and survival in prison, as well as his readjustment into regular society. In addition to being a powerful portrayal of one boy trying to come to terms with the consequences of his tragic actions, Boy With A Knife is also a searing critique of the practice of sentencing youth to adult prisons, providing a wake-up call on how we must change the laws in this country that allow children to be sentenced as adults. Continue reading »

Jeffrey Rosen on the Legacy Of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

CLBB Faculty member and constitutional scholar Jeffrey Rosen is author of the new book, Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet, and spoke with WBUR about why he calls Louis Brandeis “the most prescient judicial philosopher of the 20th Century.” Speaking with host Meghna Chakrabarti, Jeffery Rosen reflected on Brandeis’s resistance towards big government and big corporations. About the book:

According to Jeffrey Rosen, Louis D. Brandeis was “the Jewish Jefferson,” the greatest critic of what he called “the curse of bigness,” in business and government, since the author of the Declaration of Independence. Published to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his Supreme Court confirmation on June 1, 1916, “Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet” argues that Brandeis was the most farseeing constitutional philosopher of the twentieth century…. Combining narrative biography with a passionate argument for why Brandeis matters today, Rosen explores what Brandeis, the Jeffersonian prophet, can teach us about historic and contemporary questions involving the Constitution, monopoly, corporate and federal power, technology, privacy, free speech, and Zionism.

Listen to the entire Radio Boston segment below, or go to WBUR for more on the conversation.

Justice Denied in the Bronx

By Nancy Gertner | New York Law Journal | May 13, 2016

Access to justice means more than fancy courthouses, a courtroom with high ceilings, the American flag unfurled, and even compelling quotes from the U.S. Constitution. Access to justice means more than a presiding judge looking dignified in a long black robe, on an elevated platform, with the lawyers before him or her. Access to justice is not a Kabuki show—the ceremony of justice but not the reality.

But to those accused of misdemeanor offenses in the Bronx, a court proceeding is just a hollow ritual. According to the lawsuit filed by The Bronx Defenders, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, and Morrison & Foerster, there are few trials, no opportunity to confront witnesses, no way to challenge the government’s case, no opportunity to be publicly vindicated in a speedy proceeding, and unconscionable delays. Continue reading »

Dr. Rebecca Brendel on What Happens During Hospitalizations For Mental Health Issues

CLBB Director of Bioethics Dr. Rebecca Brendel spoke with WBUR’s Morning Edition to talk about the process that occurs when someone is hospitalized for mental health issues. Dr. Brendel, also director of the master’s program in bioethics and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, commented,

“What the evaluators in the emergency room really would be looking for would be symptoms consistent or supporting a risk of harm…and has the individual taken steps toward the plan to actually harm themselves or harm somebody else?”

Listen to the entire segment below, or go to WBUR for more on the interview.

The Corruption Continuum: When Giving Gifts Bleeds to Bribery

By Nancy Gertner | The Washington Post | May 6, 2016

Nancy Gertner is a retired federal district court judge and a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School, and a CLBB Senior Faculty member. She is a signatory of an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case United States v. McDonnell, on behalf of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell.

When we talk about political corruption, what often comes to mind is what the law calls “quid pro quo”: I give a politician money and in exchange he or she gets me a government contract or votes in my favor. But there is a continuum of quid pro quo exchanges, some plainly illegal, some not and some ambiguous.

In the case of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell, the Supreme Court will decide whether it is constitutional to prosecute a public official for conduct on that continuum, conduct never before determined to be at the illegal end. The issue is not whether we should regulate gifts to public officials; the issue is whether the criminal law can be used as a bludgeon when we have not done so. I think not. As a matter of due process, criminal prosecutions can be brought only when we have clearly defined what is legal and what is not.

Continue reading »