The Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics supports wide-ranging research by the Saks Institute Student Scholars. The institute educates these future legal, medical and public policy leaders to employ cutting-edge research methodology and to serve the larger cause of social justice. The Scholars conduct research on the institute's topic of the year and present work that is published in academic journals. To date, 25 student papers have been published in three journals.
Jeffrey Gilbert is a second year student at USC Law. He earned a B.S. in mathematics at the University of Arizona and then continued his studies as a graduate student. After coming to USC Law, he advocated for people with mental disabilities as a law clerk at Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. At the Saks Institute, Gilbert is excited to have the opportunity to research, further develop his interest in mental health law, and shape policy in order to give individuals greater involvement and autonomy in their mental health treatment.
Jennifer Talevich is a fifth year Ph.D student in computational social psychology. Her research concerns goals, decision making in context, and behavioral-motivation system processes, including attachment, motivation, emotion, and self-control. She is one of the few in the field who utilizes computational modeling to test theories of social psychological phenomena. At USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, she gained experience in validating computational models with human subjects on the Virtual Humans Team. With USC's Annenberg School of Communication, she conducted research on virtual interventions that successfully modified real-world behavior. She is now interested in learning how to bring her research to policy making.
David Needham is a third year student at USC Law. His research focuses on the rights of prisoners to refuse medication. He initially became interested in this subject while working on capital habeas petitions as a judicial extern at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States District Court for the Central District of California. His interest in this area has grown through his work as a certified law clerk in the preliminary hearings unit of the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, and in the criminal division of the United States Attorney's Office. Needham wrote his journal note on capital habeas petitions, and worked in USC Law's Post-Conviction Justice Project. As production editor of the Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice, he looks forward to helping produce this year's edition that is a joint collaboration with the Saks Institute.
Kevin Newman is a second-year law student at USC. Over the past four years, he has approached questions of psychology and mental health both theoretically and practically. As a research assistant at the University of Washington Psychology Department, Newman collaborated on an experimental study exploring the effects of heightened emotion on short-term memory. Last summer, he interned at Mental Health Advocacy Services in Los Angeles, a non-profit agency dedicated to helping those with mental and developmental disabilities secure housing, government services, and education that the law guarantees. Most recently, Newman joined the staff of the Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice, which forthcoming issue treats extensively the legal and ethical implications of the use of mechanical restraints in psychiatric hospitals.
Michael Parente is a third-year USC Law student and a law clerk at the Office of the Federal Public Defender. His research focuses on the rights of death row inmates to refuse medication, particularly when it would render them competent for execution. He has a Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University and an M.A. in law and economics from the University of Manchester.
Kelly Linn is a third-year student in the dual-degree J.D./M.B.T. (Master of Business Taxation) program. Her main concentration is tax law and would like to work in the tax department of an accounting firm after law school. Linn wanted to be part of the Saks Institute to contribute to a program that is committed to de-stigmatizing mental disorders and promoting a greater understanding of issues that those with mental health disabilities are facing.
Alida Liberman is fourth-year Ph.D. student in the philosophy department. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in philosophy from The College of New Jersey. Her dissertation research is in the field of practical reasoning, and her primary research interest is ethics - from metaethics to normative ethics to applied ethics. She is also interested in the philosophy of law, especially questions of criminal punishment and responsibility. She is honored to be a member of the Saks Institute, where she will have the opportunity to pursue research at the intersection of her interests in medical ethics and philosophy of law. Specifically, she will be focusing on ethical issues surrounding the use of psychotropic drugs as performance enhancers.
Kara Mahoney is a third year student at USC Law. She entered law school to become an advocate for social justice, and is particularly interested by the intersection of law and mental health issues. While working as a judicial extern at Inner City Law Center's Homeless Veterans Project, Mahoney was struck by the gross injustices faced by veterans with war-caused injuries, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Military Sexual Trauma. She helped those whose benefits claims were routinely denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs. She feels privileged to be a part of the Saks Institute, where she will study issues surrounding psychotropic medication and the armed forces.
Doug Lawson is a third-year student at USC Law. He is a graduate of Duke University, where he earned a B.A. in psychology and English. As his undergraduate graduation approached, Lawson considered pursuing a career in clinical psychiatry, but ultimately decided to go to law school. His interest in the Saks Institute stems from his desire to study issues arising at the intersection of psychology and the law, particularly those issues which involve complex ethical considerations. As part of the Saks Institute, Lawson hopes to advocate for exhaustive research into the effects and side effects of psychotropic medication administration.