You are cordially invited to the Thomson Reuters ISP Speaker Series scheduled for Friday, February 24, at 12:00 p.m. in Room 129, before the afternoon panel on Neuroscience and Deception Detection at 2 pm in Room 120. This week, we will be joined by Adam Kolber, Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and a Visiting Fellow at NYU School of Law. The title of his talk is "Smooth and Bumpy Laws."
Please note that Owen Jones will not be joining us this week as originally planned. We hope to reschedule his talk to later this semester.
Smooth and Bumpy Laws
Modest differences in conduct can lead to wildly different legal outcomes. A reasonably prudent driver who causes an accident owes nothing, but had the driver been just a bit less cautious, he might have owed millions of dollars. A man who has sex with a woman reasonably believing she consents likely commits no crime, but if he had just a bit more reason to doubt that she consented, he might have been convicted of rape. While the law must draw difficult lines, it is puzzling why the lines have such startling effects. After all, we can fine-tune damage awards and the duration of prison sentences anywhere along a spectrum.
A law is “smooth” when a gradual change in conduct leads to a gradual change in the legal outcome. The prior examples are not smooth but “bumpy”: gradual changes in conduct sometimes have no effect on the legal outcome and sometimes have dramatic effects. The law is full of these bumpy relationships between legal inputs and outputs that create hard-to-justify discontinuities. While considerations like cost and administrability sometimes justify bumpy laws, I show why there are many opportunities to make the law smoother than it is.
Adam Kolber is Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and a Visiting Fellow at NYU School of Law. He writes and teaches in the areas of criminal law, health law, bioethics, and neuroethics. He created the Neuroethics & Law Blog in 2005 and taught the first law school course devoted to law and neuroscience in 2006. He has also taught law and neuroscience topics to federal and state judges as part of a MacArthur Foundation grant. In 2007-2008, Professor Kolber was a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow at Princeton University. Professor Kolber began his academic career on the faculty of the University of San Diego School of Law. Before that, he clerked for the Honorable Chester J. Straub of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and practiced law with Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York.
We look forward to seeing you there.