WVU launching nation's first LL.M. in forensic justice

MORGANTOWN, WEST VIRGINIA—West Virginia University is launching a Master of Laws (LL.M.) program in forensic justice, beginning fall 2015. It is the only LL.M. of its kind in the United States currently accepted by the American Bar Association (ABA).

The one-year program is a collaboration between the WVU College of Law and the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. WVU’s competitive and highly-regarded FIS program is one of the first accredited in the world.

WVU Provost Joyce McConnell initiated the creation of the forensic justice LL.M. during her recent tenure as dean of the WVU College of Law.

“Forensic evidence is assuming an increasingly important role in both our civil and criminal justice systems,” she said. “This new degree will help judges and lawyers understand the field of forensic science and better integrate it into the adversary system. That integration absolutely improves the system—and is essential to justice.”

The LL.M. in forensic justice is designed for judges and lawyers interested in learning about the forensic sciences and the legal use of those sciences in the civil and criminal justice systems.

Students in the program will divide their time between specialized law and forensic science classes. The degree will culminate in a seminar which will integrate the two disciplines and produce research leading to the development of the profession.

WVU’s newest LL.M. grew out of a groundbreaking study conducted in 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences at the direction of Congress. Entitled Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, the study called attention to the shortcomings and needs of the forensic sciences. Among the reforms the study called for was the better education of judges and attorneys in forensic science.

Greg Bowman, interim dean of the College of Law, heralds the new program.

“We hope and expect that graduates from this LL.M. program will help bring more evidence- based scrutiny to forensic science in the courtroom and elsewhere,” he said. “We think this program will help promote justice in this very important field.”

Gerald Lang, chair of the Forensic and Investigative Science department, says that the new LL.M. will bring the most recent developments in forensic science to bear in the courtroom setting.

“WVU’s studies in the forensic sciences are leading to important knowledge in an area which has had little systematic study,” he said. “This program will enable our scientists to see that knowledge is translated into application in the courts across the country.”

 Marjorie McDiarmid, the WVU Steptoe & Johnson Professor of Law and Technology, is co-director of the forensic justice LL.M. She observed that “We expect that graduates of this program will go on to set the standard for lawyering in this important field.”

Associate professor of law Valena Beety, also co-director of the forensic justice LL.M., emphasizes that all of the courses, including the science-based classes, are courtroom oriented.

“This is a unique opportunity to learn about the changing field of forensics as a lawyer,” she said. “The forensic science courses are created specifically around the use of this evidence in the courtroom in order to be of the most value to practicing attorneys.”

Applications are now being accepted for WVU’s LL.M. in forensic justice. Admission requirements include a J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school or equivalent as determined by the WVU College of Law. More information is available at https://cleanslate.wvu.edu/sites/142/pages/15369/editor. Inquiries can be made by email at llm@mail.wvu.edu or by calling (304) 293-8002.

-WVU-

jj2/10/2015

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