Laboratory of Justice: The Supreme Court's 200-Year Struggle to Integrate Science and the Law

Front Cover
Macmillan, 2004 M06 3 - 417 pages
From the American Revolution to the genetic revolution, the U.S. Supreme Court's uneasy attempts to weave science into the Constitution

Suppose that scientists identify a gene that predicts that a person is likely to commit a serious crime. Laws are then passed making genetic tests mandatory, and anyone displaying the gene is sent to a treatment facility. Would the laws be constitutional?
In this illuminating history, legal scholar David L. Faigman reveals the tension between the conservative nature of the law and the swift evolution of scientific knowledge. The Supreme Court works by precedent, embedding the science of an earlier time into our laws. In the nineteenth century, biology helped settle the "race question" in the famous Dred Scott case; not until a century later would cutting-edge sociological data end segregation with Brown v. Board of Education. In 1973 Roe v. Wade set a standard for the viability of a fetus that modern medicine could render obsolete. And how does the Fourth Amendment apply in a world filled with high-tech surveillance devices?
To ensure our liberties, Faigman argues, the Court must embrace science, turning to the lab as well as to precedent.

What people are saying - Write a review

LABORATORY OF JUSTICE: The Supreme Court's 200-Year Struggle to Integrate Science and the Law

User Review  - Kirkus

Law is more art than science. Yet the law adds to and subtracts from its knowledge base, like science, and relies on scientific findings for guidance.So observes Faigman (Law/Univ. of California ... Read full review

Laboratory of justice: the Supreme Court's 200-year struggle to integrate science and the law

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Arguing that "Constitutional law is rife with empirical propositions," Faigman (law, Univ. of California, Hastings; Legal Alchemy) examines how empirical evidence from natural and social sciences has ... Read full review


Corruptible Human Hands
Dred Scott and
Holmes Brandeis
Legal Realism
Race and Eugenics
Brown v Board of Education
Privacy and the Problem
Equal Protection
The Moral

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

About the author (2004)

A professor of law at the University of California at Hastings, David L. Faigman is the author of Legal Alchemy and a frequently cited expert on scientific evidence. He lives in Mill Valley, California.

Bibliographic information