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My Neurons Made Me Do It

Jed Rakoff '64, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, spoke on Constitution Day 2011 about how neuroscience is challenging the law's view of criminal and moral responsibility. Rakoff, admired for legal opinions filled with sharp writing and laced with wit, is wellknown for decisions in which he rejected a $33 million settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bank of America, overturned the federal death penalty (reversed on appeal), and forced the Pentagon to reveal the names and nationalities of hundreds of detainees held at Guantánamo Bay. Rakoff was born in Philadelphia and, after graduating from Swarthmore, attended Oxford and Harvard Law School. He soon joined the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, where he worked as a prosecutor for seven years, including two as chief of the securities fraud unit. President Clinton appointed Rakoff to the federal bench in 1995. He is also the author of a number of books and more than 100 articles.

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