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Who We Are
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.

Recent News

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USC Gould Graduates Celebrate Passing the Bar
December 8, 2017

New lawyers take their oath after passing the nation’s most difficult bar exam


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Start with “Yes”
November 27, 2017

During “Conversation with the Dean,” alumnus Paul Richardson (JD1990) shares career insights


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Saks Institute Holds Discussion on Involuntary Commitment
November 20, 2017

Judge Jim Bianco ’87 discusses mental health court