Prepared by;

Jim Richardson, Director

The Sawyer Center is a research and public service arm of the university focused on justice related activities of various kinds. The Sawyer Center, which also is home to two large graduate degree programs, is part of the School for Social Research and Justice Studies. Below is considerable detail about the justice related activities of the Sawyer Center, followed by briefer mentions of other units in the School of Social Research and Justice Studies, as well as short descriptions of the large doctoral program in Social Psychology, the National Judicial College, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, all of whom are involved with activities of the Sawyer Center.


Nevada agencies and organizations:

Nevada Supreme Court, Washoe District Court, Nevada Attorney General’s Office, Nevada Legislature, Nevada Department of Education, Washoe County School District, First Judicial District of NV, National Judicial College, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, State Bar of Nevada, Nevada Parole and Probation, Nevada Department of Corrections, and Nevada Public Health Foundation

National and federal agencies and organizations:

National Science Foundation, Federal Judicial Center, State Justice Institute, the American Bar Association, Law School Admission Council, Department of Justice, George Washington University Science in the Courts Program, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Problems, and American Psychology and Law Society

International agencies and organizations:

Government of Canada, U. of Western Sydney Centre for the Study of Muslim Communities, Information Network Focus on Religious Movements (associated with London School of Economics)

Funding received for research projects and contracts:

NSF, five projects, $450.000 (not counting five NSF dissertation grants; another $200,000 committed to a three year project); U.S. Interior Department, one project (Wlaker Lake, $460,000); SJI, two projects, $100,000; NV Dept. of Education, 13 contracts, $926,000; NV Supreme Court, four projects, $161,000; Law School Admission Council, one project, $258,000; Washoe County School District, twelve contracts, $288,000; Federal Dept. of Justice, two projects, $72,000; NJC, three projects, $52,000; NCJFCJ, three projects, $65,000; JFA Foundation, one project, $50,000; miscellaneous smaller projects, nine projects, $55,000. (All data from OSPA files.)

We have also obtained significant private support for Sawyer Center RAs ($980,000 over last six years), as well as other donations to support the work of the Sawyer Center.

Publications and presentations derived from research activities of the Sawyer Center

Dozens of journal articles, books, book chapters, reports, and presentations at professional conferences and to policy making bodies have been made by Sawyer Center staff over the years of its existence. A full listing can be supplied if desired. Each of this publications or presentations has included the name of the Sawyer Center and the University of Nevada, drawing local, state, national, and international attention to the work being done here in the justice area.


Graduate student training

The Sawyer Center supports a number of Research Assistants with grants, contracts, and donor support (We had up to 14 per year before the budget cuts on the recession, and now have 8).Research Assistants at the Sawyer Center are trained to do justice-related research, including evaluation of programs in the justice field. Most are doctoral students in the Interdisciplinary Social Psychology program, specializing is social psychology of law. When the RAs graduate they take jobs in academe, or in other places where they are expected to do research.

Six different students have received dissertation grants through the Center, five through NSF (four Social Psy students and one Justice Studies student) and one Social Psy student who received an award from the Ford Foundation, an indication of the quality of their research projects. We have been able to support the occasional post-doc through research grants, as well. Several of the Center RAs have also taught in various departments around campus and at TMCC, adding to their training.

Degree programs offered by Sawyer Center

Judicial Studies graduate degree program for judges

The Judicial Studies graduate degree program for trial judges, which has functioned for 27 years as part of the University’s offerings, currently has over 80 judges enrolled. The “self-supporting” program, which is jointly sponsored by the National Judicial College and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, both headquartered on our campus, is unique in the country. Over the years this program has had judges from 42 states (including Nevada) and several foreign countries enrolled, and it has graduated 134 judges with a master’s degree as well as 10 judges with Ph.D. degrees. Nearly two-thirds of those graduating have published their thesis or dissertation in a law review, academic journal, or as a book, and several of the judges have published multiple articles that derive from their coursework in the JS program. Many of the theses done have influenced policy development in the judge’s home states. Also, a significant majority of judges in the program teach in judicial education programs around the country and at the NJC and NCJFCJ.

Support for the JS program has come from the State Justice Institute (over $300,000), and from the federal Department of Justice, and other federal agencies through earmarks supported by Nevada’s Senator Reid (over $500,000). Also, the Cord Foundation donated $300,000 as start-up funding for the Ph.D. in Judicial Studies when it was approved in 2001. The NJC and the NCJFCJ also help support the program, both directly and indirectly through their own course offerings.

This program has involved faculty members from Boalt Hall Law School at UC Berkeley over the 27 years of its existence, as well as faculty members from UNR and other universities across the country. We also are seeing more involvement in recent years by faculty members at Boyd Law School at UNLV. These faculty members teach seminars, give guest lectures in seminars, and serve on graduate committees for judges in the program.

Note that all students in the program are sitting judges and are therefore on the front lines of improving the justice system in whatever state or country in which they serve as judges.

Justice Management master’s degree for other careers in the justice system

Due to considerable demonstrated demand, especially from the NCJFCJ staff and participants, in 2005 a “self-supported” master’s degree in Justice Management was added to the UNR offerings. This degree is also co-sponsored by the NJC as well, and is operated as part of the Judicial Studies program under the Sawyer Center. The program, which is an on-line program, has been quite successful, with over 80 graduates to date, and over 80 enrolled in the program at any one time, about half of whom are from Nevada. All students in the program are working in careers within the justice system at such jobs as parole officers, juvenile justice probation personnel, and other career positions.

The JM program was partially supported initially by funds received through earmarks administered by the federal Department of Justice mentioned in the discussion of the JS program. However, it is now supporting itself with student fees. All students have to do either a thesis or a professional paper focusing on some aspect of their job that needs improvement.

The program is administered by two half time LOB faculty working with a number of UNR faculty from various departments and faculty from elsewhere who work to develop and teach the on-line courses. Faculty from UNR and elsewhere also serve on the three person committees that each student must have to guide development of their professional project or thesis.

Note that all JM students are currently working within the justice system in Nevada or elsewhere, and they are making immediate contributions to improving the functioning of the justice system in which they work. This often occurs as they develop their professional paper, which must be on an actually issue they face in their daily jobs.



Developed continuing legal education courses for State Bar of Nevada and also made presentations at State Bar of Nevada annual conferences and judicial conferences sponsored by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Did major research and development for Project REAL (Relevant Education about the Law) which now serves hundreds of students in public schools around Nevada; JTR currently serves on its state-wide advisory board (see

Center director JTR Appointed by the Nevada Supreme Court as project advisor for Article 6 Commission charged with reviewing all aspects of the judicial system; Center staff developed judicial performance program for Nevada as part of this effort.

JTR Appointed by Nevada Supreme Court to Judicial Conduct Code Commission to revise conduct rules for judges.

Organized Walker River Task Force for Chancellor’s Office to assess legal issues involved with acquisitions of water rights in federally funded Terminus Desert Lakes project to save Walker Lake; $460,000 from Dept. of Interior.

Center staff presented research results funded by JFA Foundation ($50,000) several times to the Interim Legislative Committee for the Administration of Justice, which was dealing with effectiveness of “truth in sentencing laws”.

Center staff presented research results to Supreme Court on several projects done for them, including to the Article 6 Commission which retained the Center to develop and pre-test a system to measure judicial performance.

Speakers have been brought to campus to make presentation to students, faculty, and the general public concerning justice issues (some presentations carried CLE credits for attorneys); also co-sponsor justice-related presentations developed by other campus organizations;

Organized the first two Constitution Day celebrations at UNR, and have assisted with other such celebrations since then;

Numerous talks given to community groups in northern Nevada on justice related topics; also Center personnel have been interviewed numerous times by print and electronic journalists on various justice-related topics.

Center staff assist UNR faculty develop grant proposals that deal with justice topics. Faculty members from social and behavioral science departments have been assisted in recent years.

National and international public service:

Center staff members manage and edit an international journal, Democracy and Security, which is now in its seventh year.

JTR has made presentations to four of six appeal courts in Australia on changes in American expert evidence law, and also to a judicial conference in Victoria, Canada on similar topic.

Numerous presentations by Center staff have been made at conferences in the U.S. and in other countries based of research done through the Center, including the funded projects mentioned above, and also other projects done without external funding.

Center directors have reviewed grant applications for federal agencies such as NSF that deal with justice research.

Center directors have reviewed grant proposals for federal funding agencies in the U.S., Canada, and Australia; also review dissertations from other countries, as well as promotion applications for faculty at universities in other countries.

Center staff member Elizabeth Francis (.5 assignment to Judicial Studies program) offers training courses around the country on such things as developing better jury instructions, and also regularly teaches judges at the NJC as well as her duties with the Judicial Studies.

Center staff members review article submissions for numerous academic journals and draft proposals and manuscripts for book publishers dealing with justice topics.

JTR has been involved in major court cases in the United States, U.K., Russia, New Zealand, and Australia, writing expert reports, consulting on cases, and offering expert testimony for the courts in cases involving minority religions and also claims of terrorist involvement.

Previous director Ron Dillehay was involved in several dozen death penalty cases around the country, offering expert testimony, as well as other consulting activities in the justice area.

JTR consulted on Jane Campion film, Holy Smoke! while in Australia on sabbatical in 1993.

JTR has been interviewed by print and electronic journalists from a number of different countries on justice related topics.


School of Social Research and Justice Studies (SRJS):

The Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies is part of SRJS. Professor Mary Stewart is director of SRJS, and is encouraging development of the potential of the School though many collaborative activities across the School’s units. She is currently developing a certificate program in Social Justice that would involve all SRJS departments. SRJS also sponsors nationally known speakers coming to campus once each semester, speaking on justice related topics. These presentations have been well received by students, faculty, and community members. There are other units in SRJS, as well, each of which could prepare a detailed report along the lines of what I have done for the Sawyer Center, outlining efforts made that promote justice in our society. There are also other units of the university dealing with justice topics, but I will not attempt to describe them.

Communications Studies has developed a major new focus on arbitration and mediation, and their connections with the Neighborhood Mediation Center in Reno. The Comm Studies chair, Gwen Hullman, is a certified mediator, and she volunteers for the Neighborhood Mediation Center, mediating community disputes, such as neighbor/neighbor, business/consumer, business/business disputes, etc. She also volunteers as a mediator for small claims court mediation in Reno and Sparks Justice Courts. Others in Comm Studies also are involved with research, teaching and public service that is justice oriented.

Criminal Justice has over 700 undergraduate majors and a growing master’s program, producing many students who develop careers in the justice area. They have graduates all over the state working in various capacities within the justice system. Also, some of their master’s students have gone on to doctoral programs at top universities, and have done well. CJ faculty members do research on justice related topics and are working with local and statewide justice system agencies. Some have been involved in the grant activity discussed above through the Sawyer Center and others have secured contracts and grants for other justice related projects.

Sociology has several faculty members who teach and do research and public service related to promoting justice. Some of the larger grants mentioned above have been with a Soc faculty member, and other Soc faculty members have also obtained considerable grant funding for justice related research.

Social Psychology Doctoral Program:

The large Social Psy doctoral program is not a formal part of the School of Social Research and Justice Studies, but most of its faculty are a part of the School, and many its students work as RAs and TAs in the School. A significant portion of its 40 doctoral students do research and dissertations on various aspects of the justice system. Note that all the RAs in the Sawyer Center over the years have been from the Social Psy doctoral program. Students from this program have been hired by state agencies to develop research capacity, and several graduates have been hired over the years by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. (The NCJFCJ also supports some students by funding RAs for the Social Psy program.)

National Judicial College and National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

The presence of the NJC and NCJFCJ on our campus contributes greatly to this overall thrust of justice related activities. These organizations train thousands of judges and other personnel from the judicial systems around the country and abroad each year, many of whom come to Reno for that training. More judicial education takes place in Reno Nevada than any place in the world, a little recognized fact about Reno and the University of Nevada.

The NJC and the NCJFCJ also are co-sponsors of the successful Judicial Studies graduate degree program for trial judges offered through the Sawyer Center that are described above, as well as the successful Justice Management master’s degree program for non-judges in the justice system.