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Law, business schools share professor's expertise


March 05, 2008
A prominent researcher of how police, attorneys and other legal fact-finders process scientific evidence and how investors make financial decisions has joined the faculties of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the W. P. Carey School of Business.
 
Jonathan “Jay” Koehler, who holds the first full joint faculty appointment at ASU in the law and business schools, previously was a university distinguished teaching professor at the University of Texas-Austin, in the McCombs School of Business. He also was named the Outstanding Business Honors Program Professor four times and had a one-quarter appointment at the UT Law School for several years.
 
“I really feel like I’m in both schools at ASU, because this is a much more formal arrangement than I had at Texas,” says Koehler, who teaches a seminar in probability and science in the courtroom, and hopes to become more involved in the college’s law and psychology graduate program.
 
Specifically, he is interested in teaching a class about legal decision-making, which emphasizes the role of cognitive psychology in the law. It’s a natural fit for Koehler, a former visiting scholar in the psychology departments at Harvard University and Stanford University, and at Stanford Law School.
 
“This type of class would fit well with my background in behavioral decision theory and research interests in how jurors think,” says Koehler, who also teaches business statistics in the Department of Finance at the W. P. Carey School of Business.
 
At the law school, he joins Regents’ Professor David Kaye – who has joint appointments in the law school and in the ASU School of Life Sciences, and is ranked by Brian Leiter’s Law School Rankings as the seventh most-cited scholar of evidence – and professor Michael Saks, who has affiliations with the law school and the ASU Department of Psychology, and who is the fourth most-cited by scholar in law and social science by Leiter’s rankings Web site.
 
Koehler, Kaye and Saks are all associated with the College of Law’s Center for the Study of Law, Science and Technology.
 
“The addition of Jay Koehler to the College of Law strengthens one of the country’s leading groups doing research at the intersection of law, statistics, forensic science and related empirical research,” Saks says. “His research has been cited in numerous judicial opinions, and in 1995 his research won the Loevinger Prize awarded by the Jurimetrics journal.”
 
Koehler, who has published papers with Kaye and Saks, has received many research grants and has written extensively about forensic science evidence. He is finishing a paper about error rates and proficiency tests in fingerprint examination. It proposes that jurors need to understand the accuracy of reported fingerprint matches, and argues that high-quality tests should be given to fingerprint examiners on a regular basis.
Koehler will present the paper March 21 at a symposium, “Faces of Forensics: Identification and Behavior,” at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.
 
Another of Koehler’s recent research projects focuses on why people invest in products like Initial Public Offerings, which historically do poorly.
 
“Why do people invest?” he asks. “The answer financial people always give is to make money. But people also get a non-monetary utility out of their investments. It’s cool to invest in Google, and it gives you bragging rights around the water cooler.”
 
Koehler is on the editorial board of the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, and he served as a guest editor for its recent special issue, “Decision Making and the Law.” Since 2005, he has been an editor of Law, Probability and Risk, and a consulting editor for Judgment and Decision Making.
 
Koehler has an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Pomona College, and he holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in behavioral sciences from the University of Chicago. His wife, Molly Mercer, is an associate professor in the School of Accountancy at the W. P. Carey School of Business, and she is a collaborator on his financial research projects. They have a 2-year-old daughter.