Professor Valerie Hans, one of the nation’s leading authorities on the jury system, has been elected president of the Law and Society Association for a two-year term beginning in June 2015.
“It’s an incredible honor and means a great deal to me to be elected president,” says Hans. “I went to my first meeting many years ago, when I was a graduate student in psychology and law. That first meeting and many subsequent ones opened my eyes to the richness and breadth of the interdisciplinary study of law.”
Trained as a social scientist, Hans has carried out extensive research as well as lectured around the globe on juries, jury reforms, and how to incorporate social sciences into law. She is the editor or author of 7 books and over 100 research articles. Her current projects involve developing a new theory of damage awards and researching the jury’s role in the death penalty. Her studies also include the introduction of juries and other forms of citizen participation in countries such as Japan, Russia, and Taiwan.
“It is a deserved tribute to her status as a leader in the use of social science methods to deepen our understanding of how the law works,” says Eduardo Peñalver, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law. “Cornell Law School is proud to be the birthplace of Empirical Legal Studies. Hans’s work demonstrates our continuing commitment to that tradition.”
Founded in 1964, the Law and Society Association is an interdisciplinary scholarly organization that supports and promotes social scientific, interpretive, and historical analyses of law across multiple social contexts. The association is committed to bringing together present and future scholars across disciplines and across international borders to recognize outstanding examples of sociolegal research and to assist members in developing their academic careers. Furthermore, the association is dedicated to promoting the study of law as part of a liberal education to address important public issues.
Hans says that her long-term participation in the LSA has helped her avoid taking a narrow approach to her research. As an example, she points to an LSA initiative that encouraged people to form global research groups, which gave her valuable insights. “I’ve learned so much from judges, lawyers, and researchers from other countries about law and legal reforms,” says Hans. “I have a better appreciation for America’s jury system by learning about alternative ways that other countries employ citizens in legal decision making, such as lay magistrates and mixed courts.
Hans says she looks forward to leading the association over the next two years and hopes to encourage productive discussion about the future of the sociolegal studies and the changing legal landscape.