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Conference Retrospective

Law and the Emotions: New Directions in Scholarship

Boalt Hall logo

Law and the Emotions event poster

Photographs by Jim Block

The conference on Law and the Emotions: New Directions in Scholarship was held in Berkeley, California, on February 8th and 9th, 2007, at the Berkeley Marina Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center (Feb. 8th , afternoon and evening) and at the School of Law (Boalt Hall) at the University of California at Berkeley, on February 9th. This was the first gathering of its kind since the May 1998 meeting at the University of Chicago Law School that became the collection of interdisciplinary essays, The Passions of Law (Susan Bandes, ed., 1999). This conference had at its core the idea that the relevance of human emotion to legal analysis was a field worthy of deeper exploration in its own right.

At this meeting a broader, deeper dialogue on the connection between emotions and the law was developed between scholars from a wide range of disciplines, ranging from philosophy, neuroscience, behavioral science, and human rights, to sociology and psychology. The results were everything we'd hoped for.

Registration took place late Thursday afternoon at the Berkeley Marina Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center, with a grand view of San Francisco Bay.

Solangel Maldonado and Tristin Green

Solangel Maldonado and Tristin Green, Seton Hall University School of Law

Monika Gruter Cheney and Douglas Yarn

Monika Gruter Cheney, Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research, and Douglas Yarn, Georgia State University College of Law

Response to this conference was overwhelming; there were over 80 attendees our first day, and more people stopped in on our second day, at Boalt Hall. The meeting rooms had to be changed to larger ones; we had not expected so many guests!

more guests show up

It should be noted that the conference attracted international attention: there were registrants from Japan, Canada, Switzerland, and Australia. The University of Oslo, Norway asked to publish our event information, and Universidad Simon Bolivar in Venezuela wished to contribute a paper to be published on our Web site. This paper and papers from other contributors can be viewed at our "other papers of interest" link at

Ann McGinley and Shannon O'Byrne

Ann McGinley, William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada; Shannon O'Byrne, University of Alberta Faculty of Law

Gail Mason and Harvey Weinstein

Gail Mason, University of Sydney Faculty of Law; Harvey Weinstein, UC Berkeley Human Rights Center

Our conference also attracted a broad range of disciplines and interests. In attendance were not only law professors and law students, but also practicing lawyers, psychiatrists, physicians (a pediatrician and two professors of medicine), clinical psychologists and psychology students, a public defender, and a professor and student from the School of Public Health. Here were people who shaped, studied, and practiced policy as it related to law and the emotions in their professional lives.

Charles Halpern     Randall Kiser

Charles Halpern, director emeritus, CUNY School of Law; Randall Kiser, LexMetrics

Ryoko Hanada     Martha Winnacker

Ryoko Hanada, Kyoto University of Education; Martha Winnacker (Boalt 2003), Contra Costa County Public Defender's Office

 Ansar Haroun      Betty Scarborough

Ansar Haroun, M.D., University of California, San Diego/San Diego Superior Court; Betty Scarborough, M.D., pediatrician

Jacqueline Colby and Jody Halpern

Jacqueline Colby and Jody Halpern, UC Berkeley School of Public Health

The meeting format consisted of a series of 15-minute panel presentations, with longer "keynote" presentations for dinner and for luncheon the following day.

The presentations were followed by question-and-answer sessions between the panelists and the audience, which led to some interesting discussions.

Panel1     Panel2     Panel3     Panel4     Panel5     Panel6     Panel7







These panels addressed cutting-edge issues in the mind sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Moving away from the traditional focus on emotion as an internal, subjective experience, the conference highlighted work that analyzes emotions as relational and dynamic players in the context of legal institutions.

Following registration was the welcome and keynote by organizer Professor Kathryn Abrams.

Kathryn Abrams

Kathryn Abrams, UC Berkeley School of Law, welcomes the Law and the Emotions attendees

After the keynote was the first panel, on New Work. The speakers (chaired by Professor Rachel Moran of the School of Law) featured Devon Carbado, Associate Dean at the UCLA School of Law, who presented "Acting White: The Good Black/Bad Black Problem" and included some video excerpts from Comedy Central's "Chappelle's Show." Cheshire Calhoun, of Colby College's Department of Philosophy, presented how "Hope Matters." Conference organizer Hila Keren of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Law then presented "Law in the Cultivation of Hope." She was followed by Laurel Fletcher of UC Berkeley's School of Law, with a human-rights law perspective called "Stay the Hand of Justice: Whose Priorities Take Priority?" Finally, Elizabeth V. Spelman, Department of Philosophy, Smith College, presented "Law and the Cultivation of Desire."

Rachel Moran     panelists

Rachel Moran, UC Berkeley School of Law, and the "New Work" panelists: Devon Carbado, UCLA School of Law; Hila Keren, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law; Cheshire Calhoun, Colby College Department of Philosophy; Elizabeth V. Spelman, Smith College Department of Philosophy; Laurel Fletcher, UC Berkeley School of Law.

Devon Carbado    IMG_0838.jpg    IMG_0838.jpg   839

881   862   831

We followed the first panel with a wine-and-cheese break before dinner.

The dinner keynote, "Invisible Hand, Invisible Heart," was presented by Arlie Hochschild of the UC Berkeley Department of Sociology.

Arlie Hochschild

Arlie Hochschild, UC Berkeley Department of Sociology

The following morning, we all took a chartered bus up to the School of Law at the UC Berkeley campus.

After a continental breakfast and settling in, we received a warm welcome to Boalt Hall by Associate Dean Howard Shelanski.

Howard Shelanski

Howard Shelanski, Associate Dean, UC Berkeley School of Law

The second Panel on Law and the Mind Sciences followed, chaired by organizer Terry Maroney of Vanderbilt University Law School. This panel explored the legal relevance of new advances in emotion theory in fields such as cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral biology.

Terry Maroney     1115

Terry Maroney, Vanderbilt University Law School, and the "Law and the Mind Sciences" panelists.

Neuroscientist Elizabeth Phelps of New York University began with "Emotion and the Brain: Potential Insights for Legal Decisions." Jeremy Blumenthal of Syracuse University College of Law presented "Moral Passions or Passionate Morals? Emotion, Moral Decision-making, and the Law." He was followed by Owen Jones of Vanderbilt University Law School & Department of Biological Sciences on "Biology, Emotions, and Law." Oliver Goodenough of the Vermont Law School and the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research then concluded with "Comments and Considerations on the Way Forward."

Elizabeth Phelps      Elizabeth Phelps

Elizabeth Phelps, New York University Phelps Lab for Cognitive Neuroscience
Jeremy Blumenthal
Jeremy Blumenthal, Syracuse University College of Law


Owen Jones

Owen Jones, Vanderbilt University Law School and Department of Biological Sciences

Oliver Goodenough

Oliver Goodenough, Vermont Law School and Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research

After a coffee break the third panel, "Law and Emotions in Action," began. Chaired by organizer Susan Bandes of DePaul University College of Law, this panel drew on sociology, psychology, and other disciplines to explore the workings of emotion in social and institutional contexts in which law plays a role. Peter Huang of Temple University's Beasley School of Law presented "Law and Human Flourishing: Happiness, Affective Neuroscience, and Paternalism." Dan Kahan of Yale Law School presented "Two Conceptions of Emotion in Risk Regulation." Sharon Krause of Brown University's Department of Political Science presented "Public Deliberation, Democratic Politics, and the Feeling of Impartiality." Jeffrey Rachlinski of Cornell University Law School presented "Judicial Intuition."

Susan Bandes

Susan Bandes, DePaul University College of law, and the "Law and Emotions in Action" panelists.

Jeffrey Rachlinski

Jeffrey Rachlinski, Cornell University Law School

Peter Huang

Peter Huang, Temple University Beasley School of Law

Dan Kahan

Dan Kahan, Yale University Law School

Sharon Krause

Sharon Krause, Brown University Department of Political Science

We then broke for a nice buffet lunch at the historic Bancroft Hotel across the street from the Berkeley Campus. The luncheon keynote featured Dacher Keltner of the UC Berkeley Department of Psychology, who presented "Evolution's Soul: Emotion and Human Ultrasociality."

Dacher Keltner

Dacher Keltner

Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley Department of Psychology

After lunch, we returned to Boalt Hall for the concluding roundtable discussion. Chaired by organizer Kathryn Abrams of the School of Law, this discussion reflected on the varied ways in which law is capable of engaging the emotions: for example, by mirroring emotions, acting upon them, moderating or challenging them, scripting them, and even bringing them into being.

Kathryn Abrams 

Kathryn Abrams, UC Berkeley School of Law

Panelists included Angela Harris, UC Berkeley School of Law, Carol Sanger, Columbia University Law School, Jonathan Simon, UC Berkeley School of Law, and Robin West, Georgetown University Law Center.

Angela Harris

Angela Harris, UC Berkeley School of Law

Carol Sanger

Carol Sanger, Columbia University School of Law

Jonathan Simon

Jonathan Simon, UC Berkeley School of Law

Robin West

Robin West, Georgetown University Law Center

Concluding remarks were provided by organizer Susan Bandes, of the DePaul University College of Law.

One of the conference sponsors, the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research, graciously hosted a post-conference dinner at Zax Tavern, an acclaimed Berkeley restaurant, so "unfinished conversations" at the conference could continue over a sumptuous dinner. We all had a good time!

Monika Gruter Cheney

Monika Gruter Cheney, Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research

We would like to thank our sponsors: the University of Califorrnia, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), the University of California, Berkeley Center for the Study of Law and Society, the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research, Vanderbilt University Law School, and DePaul University College of Law, for their generous support.


Vanderbilt Law School logo


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 We would like to thank our panelists, who provided the content and heart of our conference.

Abrams, Bandes, Maroney and Keren

Kathryn R. Abrams, Herma Hill Kay Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall)

Susan Bandes, Distinguished Research Professor, DePaul University College of Law

Terry Maroney, Assistant Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University Law School

Hila Keren, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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We are very glad you were able to be a part of this conference and hope you have found in it rich resources for further scholarship, connections with other interested parties, and food for thought.


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