Los Alamos National LaboratoryEngineering Institute
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Judicial Science School

The goal of Los Alamos Judicial Science School is to provide judges with knowledge and experience that will enhance their ability to evaluate whether scientific arguments meet the threshold requirements of admissibility.

Contacts  

  • NSEC Director
  • David L. Clark
  • (505) 665-0983
  • Email
  • Engineering Institute Director
  • Charles Farrar
  • (505) 665-0860
  • Email
  • Executive Administrator
  • Ellie Vigil
  • (505) 667-2818
  • Email
Judicial Science School

Developed through close collaboration between the Laboratory’s top science, engineering, and legal professionals, this week-long course represents a complete primer on the scientific method that is tailored for judges. The purpose of the course is to provide the judges with an understanding of the methodology of modern scientific research, and the role of uncertainty inherent in all measurements, models, and predictions. Our goal is to offer the knowledge and tools that will better prepare judges to evaluate whether scientific arguments and methodologies meet threshold requirements for admissibility in the courtroom.

Our immersion course is a unique combination of lectures from senior scientists and engineers, tours of specialized laboratory facilities, and hands-on experience in a laboratory, and application of knowledge to a real-world legal problem. Throughout the week, judges are exposed to how scientists and engineers go about their work in the laboratory, in the field, and how they use advanced theory, modeling, and simulation to make predictions about the natural world. Hands-on laboratory experience allows the judges to learn about sources of error and recognize that uncertainty is unavoidable in science. At the end of the course, judges have an opportunity to apply what they have learned during a mock hearing on the admissibility of scientific information.

Throughout the course, judges work closely with scientific mentors to ensure that the experience is interesting, engaging, and informative.

Goals of the Program

The goal of the Los Alamos Judicial Science School is to provide judges with knowledge and experience that will enhance their ability to evaluate whether scientific arguments meet the threshold requirements of admissibility. This goal is accomplished through a combination of interactive classroom instruction, tours of unique facilities, and hands-on laboratory exercises aimed at the following objectives:

  • Understand and apply basic experimental methods common to all scientific problem solving
  • Examine data collected from hands-on scientific investigations and formulate conclusions
  • Explore and practice analytical methods used to interpret scientific data and understand the uncertainties associated with such analyses
  • Present, argue, and qualify conclusions and inferences based upon scientific data
  • Discover connections in methods and language between law and science
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