Judging in the Genomic era: judges’ genetic knowledge, confidence and need for training

Selita, Fatos; Smereczynska, Vanessa; Chapman, Robert; Toivainen, Teemu and Kovas, Yulia. 2020. Judging in the Genomic era: judges’ genetic knowledge, confidence and need for training. European Journal of Human Genetics, 28(10), pp. 1322-1330. ISSN 1018-4813 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Genetic information is increasingly used in many contexts, including health, insurance, policing and sentencing – with numerous potential benefits and risks. Protecting from the related risks requires updates to laws and procedures by justice systems. These updates depend to a large extent on what the key stakeholders – the judiciary – know and think about the use of genetic information. This study used a battery of 25 genetic knowledge items to collect data from 73 supreme court judges from the same country (Romania) on their knowledge of genetic information. Their responses were compared with those of two other groups: lawyers (but not judges; N = 94) and nonlawyers (N = 116) from the same country. The data were collected at approximately the same time from the three groups. The judges’ results were also compared to the results obtained from a general population data collection (N = 5310). The results showed that: 1) judges had overall better knowledge of genetics than the other groups, but their knowledge was uneven across different genetic concepts; 2) judges were overall more confident in their knowledge than the other two groups, but their confidence was quite low; and 3) the correlation between knowledge and confidence was moderate for judges, weak for lawyers and not significant for non-lawyers. Finally, 100% of the judges agreed that information on gene-environment processes should be included in judges’ training. Increasing genetic expertise of the justice stakeholders is an important step towards achieving adequate legal protection against genetic data misuse.

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This work is supported by Russian Foundation for Basic Research Grant No. 18-29-14071.


judges, genetic training, genetic data misuse, genetics law, updating laws, genetic discrimination

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28 April 2020Accepted
26 May 2020Published Online
October 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

11 May 2020 15:31

Last Modified:

15 Jan 2024 10:53

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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