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Judges are boning up on advanced science and technology in special classrooms. If all goes as planned, scientific testimony will no longer be Greek to them. Whether this is proof of evolution or of intelligent design remains to be seen.

Excerpts from the Daily Record story:

Anticipating that today’s scientific innovations will be tomorrow’s topics of litigation, two dozen Maryland judges are getting a crash course in the life sciences.

Twenty-two circuit court judges and one judge from each appellate court have joined with Ohio jurists to form the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center.

The idea is to prepare the judges to understand cases involving complicated scientific matters and to serve as resources for their colleagues, said Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, who is chairman of ASTAR’s board of directors.

“It could be as simple as genetic identification of persons,” Bell said. “But it also could get involved in questions of the treatment of disease, issues concerning whether or not you’re able to prevent a disease by somehow or another grafting onto a person’s genetic makeup a gene that has in some way been changed.”

Earlier this month, the judges had their first training session in Warrenton, Va., where they learned about subjects such as DNA (even getting to extract their own, Bell said), stem cells, genetic diseases and the science of addiction. They will attend a few more workshops and conferences before “graduating” in December 2006.

While some types of cases involving advanced science have yet to hit the legal system, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Ruth A. Jakubowski said she and other judges are already dealing with other kinds.

Jakubowski pointed to the recently settled lawsuit filed against the federal government by the parents of a child with brittle-bone disorder. The girl was taken from her parents and her father was charged with child abuse after doctors found that she had multiple rib fractures. She was only later diagnosed with the genetic condition, which makes sufferers more susceptible to bone injuries.

ASTAR will eventually expand to train judges around the country and internationally, according to a news release from Maryland’s Court Information Office.

Overall, Bell said, the aim of the program is to “make sure that we are on the right side of technology and are able to handle the cases as they are presented.”

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