Symposia & Lectures

Explore, Analyze, and Discuss

Since its creation in 1999, the Center has held several interdisciplinary conferences and symposia, bringing leading scholars and specialists from around the world to Brooklyn Law School.

Upcoming Programs

Getting a Confession Versus Getting at the Truth: An Ethical Alternative to Deceptive Police Interrogation Tactics (CLE)

Thursday, October 1, 2015
5:30 to 7:30 pm

Brooklyn Law School
Subotnick Center, 10th Floor
250 Joralemon St.

Register at by Thursday, September 24.

Past Programs 

Discussion: March 17, 2014
Interpreting Laws in Multilingual Legal Systems
Sponsored by the Center for Law, Language & Cognition and the Dennis J. Block Center for the Study of International Business Law

Dr. Janny Leung, Associate Professor, The University of Hong Kong and Harvard-Yenching Institute, and Dr. Karen McAuliffe, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Exeter spoke about Interpreting Laws in Multilingual Legal Systems.

Workshop: October 11 - October 12, 2012
Author Attribution Workshop
Co-sponsored by the Center for Law, Language and Cognition, the National Science Foundation, and the Journal of Law and Policy

It is not unusual for a legal case to depend on who wrote a particular document. The question has arisen in many high-profile cases, such as identifying the author of the Unabomber Manifesto, and the ransom notes in the JonBenét Ramsey murder case and the Lindburgh baby kidnapping and murder case. It arises in many less-celebrated criminal and civil cases on a regular basis.

Research on the attribution of authorship of documents has developed impressively. Yet while testimony on the source of documents in high-profile legal cases has attracted significant media attention, the field has remained mostly under the radar screen of American judges and evidence scholars. Computer models are being created and tested in which the method is employed in a uniform manner. Error rates are reported, with a healthy competition among various practitioners to develop the best algorithms and to use statistical analysis that will get the most out of the analyses produced. At the same time, scholars in linguistics whose methods are less quantitative, offer new and important insights.

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Symposium: November 19, 2010
Statutory Interpretation: How Much Work Does Language Do?

Co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition and the Brooklyn Law Review

With 2010 having marked Justice Scalia’s 25th year on the Supreme Court, his approach to statutory interpretation has had great influence on both the courts and the academic community. Yet vigorous disagreement continues in both realms. In a series of roundtables, leading scholars discussed and debated their views on such issues as whether uncertainty in statutory language is a necessity, whether legislatures can solve some of their own problems by legislating in a manner designed to help statutory interpreters in advance, and which institutions can best construe statutes in different contexts.

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Symposium: September 26, 2008
Is Morality Universal, and Should the Law Care?
Co-sponsored by the Brooklyn Law Review

Discoveries about the ways our minds work lead us to ask important questions that concern the law. Among them are: Do we have a universal set of moral principles, which suggests that people should be held responsible for complying with them regardless of articulated legal standards? Is there a universal set of justifications and excuses for otherwise bad conduct? Do we have a strong impulse toward retribution, and if so, should the law reinforce or temper that impulse? Are there universal principles of social cognition, and if so, how should the law respond to their existence? Can we tie any such patterns to evolution? Are we configured to blame more easily than to praise, and how does the law reflect this asymmetry?

Participants in the symposium included experts in law, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, history, and psychiatry. Their presence at the symposium highlighted both the occasional consensus and more frequent controversy about these most important questions.

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Talk: October 10, 2007
Liability for Risk: Citizens' Perspectives on Liability for Loss of Chance

When two people perform similarly bad acts, but only one of them causes injury, the system often treats the lucky perpetrator far better than the one whose conduct resulted in actual harm. This problem is referred to as loss of chance in the tort literature, and as moral luck in the philosophical literature. Studies show that people care a great deal about a perpetrator’s state of mind when damages are awarded or sanctions meted out, regardless of whether actual injury has occurred; that there is a moral luck component to people’s judgments; and that they appear to distinguish, at least to some extent, the differing purposes of tort law (corrective justice) and criminal law (retributive justice). 

Lecture: March 21, 2007
Courtroom Discourse in China and the United States: A Comparative Analysis
Co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of International Business Law; and, the Asian-American Law Students Association (AALSA)

Dr. Meizhen Liao presented a detailed comparison between Chinese and American criminal court judgments, highlighting the differences between the legal systems and the larger cultures. A professor of linguistics and director of the institute of linguistics in Central China Normal University in Wuhan, Dr. Liao also heads a Ph.D. program in language and law at China University of Political Sciences and Law in Beijing.

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Symposium: March 2, 2007
A Cross-Disciplinary Look at Scientific Truth: What’s the Law to Do?

Science and the legal system have been facing off for some time, with no end in sight. For example, every time a consumer sues a pharmaceutical company or a manufacturer for injuries, a complex mixture of scientific and legal constructs and values comes into play. How do you know that this product really caused this particular injury? What constitutes proof? How much information should we require before we can say that our best theory is good enough? Who should decide? What inferences should be drawn from a lack of information?

Watch the Law, Language & Cognition Ethics Roundtable: Lies, Deceit and BS in Court

Have questions? We have answers.

Don Forchelli Professor Lawrence Solan 
Director, Center for Law, Language and Cognition 
250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Telephone: (718) 780-0357
Fax: (718) 780-0393

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