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An Interview with Sarah Cooper, Scholar-in-Residence

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Sarah Cooper seated on the stone steps leading up to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Law Library Scholar-in-Residence Sarah Cooper visits the Supreme Court of the United States. Photo by Paul Cooper.

This week’s interview is with Dr. Sarah Cooper, the Law Library scholar-in-residence.  Dr. Cooper made extensive use of the Law Library’s collection to conduct research for her next book.  During her short time here, Dr. Cooper significantly changed the structure of her book due to the materials she discovered at the Library.

Describe your background.

I am an academic at Birmingham City University’s School of Law in the United Kingdom, where I am the Director of the Centre for Law, Science and Policy. The centre focuses on research projects that examine intersections of law with various sciences and technologies. My research in particular examines U.S. court approaches to scientific uncertainty in the criminal justice process. I also teach English criminal law, American criminal procedure and evidence, and oversee our moot court teams and US internship program.

What is your academic/professional history?

After completing my English law degree (LL.B) with a minor in American Legal Studies, I qualified as a barrister under a Lord Denning Scholarship at The Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn. I then joined Birmingham City University as an academic and completed postgraduate awards both in higher education and international justice. I completed my PhD which examined the influence of legal process theory on U.S. courts addressing scientific uncertainty in 2016. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Authority in the U.K. and the Arizona Justice Project in the U.S.

How would you describe your job (or research project) to other people?

Whilst a scholar-in-residence, I am gathering research material in order to shape a book that I am writing. The book is provisionally titled “Forensic Science in America’s Era of Innocence” and it examines how law, science, and innocence intersect at key junctures in the criminal justice process. I argue that obstacles to identifying and remedying wrongful conviction, which manifest at these junctures (and are associated with legal procedures and rules, social actors, and scientific practices and evidence), can be attributed (in a not so insignificant way) to deeper philosophical clashes between the enterprises of science and law. It focuses on the time period between 1985-present.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

I wanted to undertake research at the Law Library of Congress because of its unrivalled collection of fantastic materials and beautiful setting!

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library of Congress?

Generally, I am astounded at the volume of materials that can be accessed at the Library. I’m discovering things I never knew existed almost every day! More specifically, the most interesting thing I’ve encountered at the Library of Congress is Thomas Jefferson’s Library. The story behind that collection is fascinating.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

At the LOC? Folks probably wouldn’t guess that I am an avid soccer fan. There’s little I can’t talk about when it comes to soccer teams! I have been a season ticket holder at Aston Villa Football Club for many years, and you can often find me running in my number ‘5’  Villa jersey.

Comments (3)

  1. Aston Villa? Didn’t they get kicked out of the English league or something? Oh well, that should give you more time to do your research and enjoy Washington. All the best, Steve Clarke. (I was the Canadian and Irish legal specialist from 1979 to 2011).

  2. Loved this!! You are a very dedicated and talented young lady.
    Thank you for sharing and putting your work into Laymans terms.
    Good luck in your writing your book!!

  3. I am an adjunct professor at George Mason University in the Forensic Science section; I am a ‘retired’ prosecutor/defense attorney. I have just finished reading your “Forensic Science Identification Evidence’ and while you make a lot of good points, in my humble opinion your critique suffers from a lack of understanding of the workings inside an actual courtroom. Some of the cases you utilize in this work are not exactly what you say they stand for and I always think that this plays into some of your conclusions.

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