From the 2008 News Archive
Washington Post Spotlights School's Innovative Research on Genetic Tests and the Courts
"Twenty years after DNA fingerprints were first admitted by American courts as a way to link suspects to crime scenes, a new and very different class of genetic test is approaching the bench," wrote Rick Weiss in a front page story
in The Washington Post's
April 20 edition.
Stemming from his attendance at the School of Law’s recent roundtable, "Judging Genes: Implications of the Second Generation of Genetic Tests in the Courtroom,"
and featuring interviews with Dean Karen Rothenberg and Associate Dean Diane Hoffmann
, Weiss’s article explores the legal implications as health and behavior-related genetic tests are being introduced to the courts in civil cases, primarily tort litigation. On the horizon are new challenges for judges, such as tests to confirm or predict genetic diseases, traits and behavioral conditions. These tests will likely be introduced in many more judicial contexts including decisions regarding culpability, sentencing, liability, causation and damages.
"Most of these tests are still research tools hovering on the margins of admissibility; only a few have made the leap from the lab bench to the courtroom," said Weiss. "But scientists' expanding ability to query people's genes, and lawyers' efforts to introduce those findings as evidence, are forcing scholars and judges to think in new ways about the Constitution's protections against self-incrimination and unreasonable search and seizure."
"So far, judges have been cautious," said Dean Rothenberg
. But given what Rothenberg calls the "love affair" that courts have had with DNA fingerprints, she and others fear that judges and juries will fall too quickly for the new tests.
Weiss’s story also cites a survey
led by Dean Rothenberg and Associate Dean Hoffman, Director of the Law & Health Care Program, that assessed when judges were likely to admit or compel second generation genetic tests.