MSU College of Law



June 24, 2008


Trial Practice Institute and Empirical Research Group Connect

East Lansing, MI – The missions of Michigan State University, its College of Law, and the Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute include the advancement of knowledge and expansion of human understanding. Each of these takes its mission very seriously. The rules of evidence and procedure are based on empirical assumptions about how jurors make decisions. Michigan State University College of Law Professors Barbara O’Brien and Craig Callen, MSU Professor of Psychology Norbert Kerr, and MSU Communications Department Professor Frank Boster have been conducting interdisciplinary research as a group for the last four years to test some of those empirical assumptions. They have thus far completed three projects, including “Chaos in the Courtroom Reconsidered: Emotional Bias and Juror Nullification” in Law & Human Behavior, “Jury Nullification Instructions as Amplifiers of Bias” in International Commentary on Evidence, and the forthcoming “Crime Heinousness and Juror Decision Making.”

The professors conducted all of the research for the last two projects in the College of Law’s Clif and Carolyn Haley Courtroom and other facilities in the College, using MSU students as mock jurors. The courtroom is one of the most technologically advanced courtrooms in an American law school; and the home of the Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute. It also includes special features to support empirical research. As part of the mission to advance knowledge, the Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute (TPI) at MSU Law has named these four faculty members Research Associates of the Institute.

This affiliation affords the TPI an exciting opportunity to connect its coursework on jury behavior to research in the field; a combination few trial practice programs in the country offer. Empirical research lays the groundwork for improvements in the law of procedure and evidence, and provides valuable insights about jury deliberations on which TPI students can rely in preparing to practice in the courtroom. In addition, beginning in the fall 2008, MSU Law students will have the opportunity to enroll in a course on social science and the litigation system, which Professors Kerr and Boster will teach. At the same time, it provides the researchers with easy access to the faculty and students of the TPI—all intensely interested in litigation—for advice, support, and participation in research.

MSU College of Law was in founded in 1891 as the Detroit College of Law and was devoted exclusively to professional education in law. The Law College is one of only a few private law schools to be affiliated with a research university, enabling it to provide a comprehensive interdisciplinary legal education program. Classes offered in its state-of-the-art facilities provide students the benefits of a Big Ten campus while maintaining a small school culture. For more information about the Law College, visit

320B Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824