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Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies

Contact Information

Grant Sawyer Center for
Justice Studies

Contact Please see our Directory for Center staff information
Phone (775) 784-6272
Fax (775) 784-6273
Location National Judicial College Building
Address 1664 N. Virginia Street
Mail Stop 313
Reno, NV 89557
Room 114
Contact Contact us by phone or email

Past Events

Is the Jury Still Out? Methodological Issues in Jury Research; Early Approaches to Psychology and Law: Philosophy, Theory, and Application in Eyewitness Memory Research
Dr. Brian Bornstein, a psychology professor from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln visited Reno the week of Oct. 8th, 2007, to give some presentations. Dr. Bornstein is a member of the law/psychology and cognitive psychology programs at UNL, as well as Associate Director of the law/psychology program. Dr. Bornstein's research efforts focus primarily on how juries, especially in civil cases, make decisions, and the reliability of eyewitness memory. Additional areas of focus are in applying decision-making principles to everyday judgment tasks, as in medical decision making and distributive justice. His first talk discussed the pros/cons of various approaches to conducting jury research, such as experimental simulations, archival data analysis, observational studies, and field studies. His second talk addressed the role of philosophy, theory, and application in eyewitness memory research by contrasting two seminal publications in psychology and law: Hugo Munsterberg's On the Witness Stand (1908), and G.F. Arnold's Psychology Applied to Legal Evidence and Other Constructions of Law (1906). He illustrated the basic-vs-applied research debate in contemporary eyewitness memory research by examining research on the cross-race effect (i.e., the tendency to be better at recognizing individuals of one's own than other races). Contemporary researchers can still learn a great deal from a consideration of the themes raised in these historical texts. He also met informally with grad students and faculty interested in psychology and law during his visit.

Children and Families in the Child Welfare System: Mental Health and Substance Abuse-Stress, Coping and Resiliency
On October 23, 2006, Judge Leonard Edwards and David Arredondo, M.D. gave this public lecture, sponsored by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Permanency Planning for Children Department in conjunction with the Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies. The talk suggested strategies to promote adaptive coping in the face of adversity and thus foster resilience in children and families caught in the child welfare system and other systems that impact the juvenile and family court. The lecture bridged theory, principles, and practice in a manner designed to be useful to a multidisciplinary audience including judges, social worker, attorneys, psychologists, child welfare advocates, juvenile justice professionals and students.

The Media and Pretrial Prejudice: Consultation, Research, and Potential Remedies
On October 17, 2006, The Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies, the Reynolds School of Journalism, and the National Center for Courts and Media of the National Judicial College welcomed Ronald C. Dillehay, Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at UNR. Dr. Dillehay gave a talk on pretrial publicity and the media. A summary of his topic is provided below.
High media coverage of criminal and civil cases carries the risk of creating prejudice and bias among prospective jurors. Justice for the parties requires that jurors be fair and impartial in their evaluation of the evidence and judgments about the defendant or parties involved. In criminal cases with extensive media coverage, whether local, regional, or national in extent, potential jurors may have been exposed to facts and information about the crime and the defendant. In such cases, are potential jurors likely to be aware of the case? If aware, is it probable that they have formed judgments about the defendant and the evidence in the case? Is there a reasonable likelihood of prejudice on the parts of prospective jurors? Are they likely to be able to set aside any such prejudice? Research on actual cases and relevant theory and findings from social science will be discussed, with a focus on change of venue and other potential remedies for pretrial prejudice in potential jurors.

The Strategy of the United Nations in Fighting International Terrorism
On April 13, 2006, the Department of Political Science, Nevada Committee on Foreign Relations, Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies, the International Affairs Program and the Jot Travis Student Union welcomed Dr. A.P. Schmid, Director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Dr. Schmid has authored and edited more than 150 publications, including the award-winning Political Terrorism. Currently he is working on a Handbook of Terrorism Research. He served as Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations' Terrorism Prevention Branch in Vienna from 1999 to 2005 where he held the position of Senior Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer. Prior to joining the United Nations, Dr. Schmid held the Synthesis Chair on Conflict Resolution at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

"Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity" - Understanding Psychiatric Diagnosis
On April 7, 2006, the Center for Justice Studies welcome Melissa Piasecki, M.D., who explained the basis of psychiatric diagnoses and the use of the insanity defense. Often misunderstood and misapplied, psychiatric diagnoses can be best understood through a systematic approach. Her presentation focused on the foundation and limitations of the current psychiatric diagnostic scheme and on the Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) pleas in Nevada. You can view a PDF flier for this event here.

Psychiatry Grand Rounds CME with Senator Townsend
On January 25, 2006, the Center for Justice Studies and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences welcomed Senator Townsend to the Psychiatry Grand Rounds CME. These Grand Rounds provided another relevant angle to the clinical work done within the Department of Psychiatry -- that of advocacy and ethical distribution of resources. Senator Townsend has long been an advocate for the mentally ill in the state of Nevada, seeking justice for them in terms of funding and facilities.

A Talk by Barbara Walker: Soviet Dissent in the Cold War: The Power of Self-Sacrifice
On November 15, 2005, the Center for Justice Studies welcomed Barbara Walker, as she discussed her work in the Soviet Union entitled, "Soviet Dissent in the Cold War: The Power of Self-Sacrifice," in an interactive multimedia presentation. You can read more about her presentation here.

Constitution Day Celebration
On September 21, 2005, a panel of speakers discussed the relevence of the Constitution in modern day. The keynote speaker was Judge Proctor Hug, Former Chief Judge, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose talk was entitled, "The Constitution in a Changing World." The respondent panel included Bill Dressel, NJC President, Moderator, and panel members Joan Howarth, UNLV Constitutional Law Professor, Deborah Agosti, Senior Judge, Nevada Supreme Court, Miriam Shearing, Senior Judge, Nevada Supreme Court, and Cole Campbell, Dean, Reynolds School of Journalism.

Environmental Justice in Indian Country
On April 22, 2004, Professor Charles Wilkerson of the University of Colorado Law School and noted expert on Native American land claims and related issues presented a keynote address entitled 'Environmental Justice in Indian country'. This was followed by responses and additional comments from Brian Wallace, Chairman, Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, Robert V. Abbey, State Director, Nevada, Bureau of Land Management, and Gregory Phillips, Project Director for the US Environemtnal Protection Agency, and member of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa.

November 12, 2003 - Dr. Sarah Pike presented "Burning Man's Postmodern Rites of Passage." Dr. Pike studies religion in America, and obtained her PhD from Indiana University. Her research has focused on New Religious Movements, about which she has written numerous articles and book reviews. Using slides of her trips as illustration, she argued that Burning Man is a religious site for many participants (this year's theme was "Beyond Belief").

October 16, 2003 - Dr. Jennifer Skeem presented "How Accurately Can We Identify 'Superpredators' During Adolescence? The Lure of Psychopathy." After finishing her doctoral training in clinical psychology and law at the University of Utah in 1999, Dr. Skeem completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in law and psychiatry research at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Her research is designed to inform clinical and legal decision-making, and her current work focuses on understanding the construct of psychopathic personality disorder, assessing and managing violence risk, and identifying key influences on the outcomes of probationers who are required to accept psychiatric treatment.