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Friday, September 7, 2012

Professor Gordon Places Her Latest Article in the Hastings Law Journal

The Boyd School of Law is very pleased to announce that Professor Sara Gordon placed her latest law review article, "Through the Eyes of Jurors: The Use of Cognitive Psychology in the Application of 'Plain Language' Jury Instructions," in the Hastings Law Journal.

"Through the Eyes of Jurors" examines the social science research on schema theory in order to advance our understanding of how "schemas," or the preexisting notions jurors have about the law, shape jurors’ use of jury instructions. "Through the Eyes of Jurors" is the first law journal article to look at all of the major cognitive psychology studies that examine how schemas continue to influence jurors' use of jury instructions, even when those jurors are given "plain-language" instructions.

There is, of course, a significant body of legal literature examining jurors’ use and understanding of jury instructions, and many scholars have recommended ways to improve juror comprehension of instructions. Professor Gordon's article takes that analysis a step further and argues that even when given "plain-language" jury instructions, jurors will still be influenced by their preconceived ideas of what the "law" is, or in other words, by the preexisting schemas they have for legal concepts. Furthermore, these schemas are often legally incorrect, and findings from the social sciences suggest that, even when given plain-language jury instructions with the correct legal standard, jurors may still apply these legally inappropriate schemas. Professor Gordon's article synthesizes the results and underlying theories of those findings in order to examine the impact these schemas have on jury decision-making, and on jurors' use of jury instructions, and to identify ways lawyers and judges can counteract inappropriate existing schemas and activate legally appropriate schemas before jurors are introduced to the facts they are expected to interpret. Specifically, Professor Gordon argues that courts should use principles of cognitive and educational psychology to develop jurors' schemas to more closely resemble that of the lawyers and judges in the case.

The abstract for "Through the Eyes of Jurors" is available for download from SSRN.

Professor Gordon joined the faculty in 2007, bringing expertise in Evidence Law, Community Property Law, and Lawyering Process. At Boyd, she teaches courses in First-Year Legal Writing, Legal Drafting, Pre-Trial Litigation, Supreme Court, Community Property, and Evidence.