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Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics


Elyn Saks
Founder & Director

Elyn Saks is the Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at USC's Gould School of Law, an adjunct professor of Psychiatry at the UCSD School of Medicine, and assistant faculty at the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. In 2009, she received the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant."

Despite battling schizophrenia and acute psychosis since she was a teenager, Saks is a nationally recognized scholar in mental health law, criminal law and the ethical dimensions of medical research.

After decades of hiding her illness, Saks published a memoir about her struggles and successes in The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (Hyperion, 2007). The book won far-reaching acclaim from literary critics and advocacy groups.

Her memoir, has garnered such honors as:

  • The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, the “Genius Grant”
  • A New York Times “Extended Best Seller”
  • The Time Magazine “Top Ten Nonfiction Books of the Year” Award
  • An Honorary LLD from Pepperdine University
  • A Hospital ward named after her at Pelham Woods Hospital in Dorking, England

Saks’ scholarship and practice include:

  • Worked as a legal intern in the Mental Health Law Project at Yale Legal Services
  • Represented Patients in Civil Commitment Hearings and Abuse/Neglect Cases
  • Consulted as an Expert in Cases Involving Multiple Personality Disorder and the Law
  • Teaches Civil and Criminal Mental Health Law
  • Trained as Research Psychoanalyst at the New Center for Psychoanalysis
  • Writes widely in the area of law and mental health

Christopher Schnieders
Program Associate

Christopher Schnieders assists in the development, planning, and implementation of Saks Institute research and activities, including the annual spring symposium and fall lecture events. He also supports the academic efforts of Professor Saks and Saks Student Scholars. His previous experience at USC Gould School of Law includes support for the Center for Law and Philosophy, USC-Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics, and the Small Business Clinic. Before joining the law school, Schnieders was an administrative coordinator at the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC Price. In his free time, he is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the online literary journal, Intellectual Refuge.

Melissa Joy Miller, J.D.
Postdoctoral Scholar

Melissa Joy Miller is a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics at the USC Gould School of Law. Miller's current research addresses problems associated with untreated mental illnesses and criminal justice system involvement, including the disproportionate incarceration of people with serious mental illness and fragmented service delivery systems, as well as the complex civil issues of promoting student mental health, privacy, and safety on college campuses. Her work involves developing empirically supported, problem-solving initiatives at the interface of therapeutic jurisprudence and the mental health arena. Currently, she is working on a project focused on improving the reentry outcomes of inmates with mental illness in Los Angeles County. Miller is a member of the California State Bar and is also admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She also serves as a volunteer mediator for the Los Angeles Superior Court. Miller received her A.B., summa cum laude, in English from Duke University, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law, where she was a Senior Editor of the UCLA Law Review and a scholar in the UCLA-RAND Empirical Legal Scholars Program.

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