Instructor(s): Helena Likwornik

For graduate students, the course number is LAW6010H.

Note: The Quercus program will be used for this course. Students must self-enrol in Blackboard as soon as confirmed in the course in order to obtain course information.

Science has much to offer the law. To prove causation in an environmental or medical negligence case, or place the accused at the scene of the crime, the law often turns to scientific evidence. At the same time, there is a real risk that scientific evidence may be misunderstood and misused. The 2008 Goudge Inquiry into pediatric forensic pathology provides a particularly frightening account of this possibility. Since the language of science, both in words and numbers, can confound the law, how can we present scientific evidence to judges and jurors in ways that best promote understanding? What is the proper role of experts in presenting such evidence? In what ways do legal and scientific standards of proof diverge? These are the sorts of questions that will be addressed in the first part of this course, which will examine science as a particular type of evidence.

At the same time, science can also inform the laws approach to other varieties of evidence. For example, scientific findings on the reliability of eyewitness testimony or of assessing witness credibility can shape the laws use of these kinds of evidence. Is the law right to privilege first-hand oral testimony? How effective is cross examination in revealing deceit? Questions such as these will be explored in the second part of this course, which will focus on how science might guide the laws approach to evidence more generally.

a research paper (6,000-7,500 words) on a subject preapproved by the instructor (75%); an oral presentation on a selected topic accompanied by a short handout of 500-1,000 words (15%); and discussion/class participation (10%).

At a Glance

Second Term
Perspective course


22 JD


M: 2:10 - 4:00