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Prof. Morse’s essay in Los Angeles Review of Books explores issues at the intersection of law, psychology, and society

November 23, 2020

In “What Do We Owe Each Other?: An Essay on Law and Society,” the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law Stephen J. Morse uses lawyer and psychologist Susan Vinocour’s Nobody’s Child as a vehicle to explore various criminal law and justice system issues that intersect with mental health and social welfare. Morse’s essay was published in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Morse calls Vinocour’s book “widely noticed, engrossing, immensely saddening, and thought-provoking.” The volume covers an ambitious array of topics, writes Morse, including the current insanity defense and a reform proposal concerning it; prevailing attitudes toward mentally ill defendants as well as toward guilt and punishment generally; the criminal justice system’s failings regarding the poor and people of color; society’s shortcomings in responding to the needs of those with major mental disorder and severe social disadvantage, and more.

Morse’s essay often writes against the book’s claims and provides an engaging and informative analysis of these issues from his own perspective as both a law professor and a Professor of Psychology and Law in Psychiatry. He also serves as the Associate Director of the Center for Neuroscience & Society.

In his research, Morse works on problems of individual responsibility and agency. He has published numerous interdisciplinary articles and chapters and has co-edited collections, including (with A. Roskies) A Primer on Criminal Law and Neuroscience and (with L. Katz & M. Moore) Foundations of Criminal Law. He was a contributing author (with L. Alexander and K. Ferzan) to Crime and Culpability: A Theory of Criminal Law.

He is working on a new book, Desert and Disease: Responsibility and Social Control. Morse was Co-Director of the MacArthur Foundation Law and Neuroscience Project.

Morse is a Diplomate in Forensic Psychology of the American Board of Professional Psychology; a past president of Division 41 of the American Psychological Association; a recipient of the American Academy of Forensic Psychology’s Distinguished Contribution Award; a recipient of the American Psychiatric Association’s Isaac Ray Award for distinguished contributions to forensic psychiatry and the psychiatric aspects of jurisprudence; a member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Mental Health and Law; and a trustee of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (1995-2016).

Read more Law School faculty papers and publications.