Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

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Ferguson as a Case Study in Persuasion

8:15am to 5:30pm
Room 25, Mondale Hall

Location Change: Due to an issue the conference has been move to the Law School, room 25.

Thank you for your interest in the conference. The conference is currently sold out, but we encourage you to add your name to the waiting list. We will release seats to those on the waiting list as they become available.

You are invited to join the University of Minnesota Law School's Institute on Law and Rationality on Friday, October 13 for a conference on "Ferguson as a Case Study in Persuasion" at the University of Minnesota Law SchoolOur society’s ability to have productive dialogues about important social issues is at a nadir.  We don’t know how to productively disagree with each other, and we certainly don’t know how to persuade.  This conference seeks to engage scholars and practitioners with varying experiences and backgrounds in a discussion of their attempts to persuade and their views as to what works, what doesn’t, and why. 

Conference Description

Our launching point is the Ferguson reports, prepared and presented in a context where the findings were sure to be strongly challenged by people with contrary prior beliefs and an enormous amount at stake in maintaining those beliefs. This symposium examines those reports, using them as a case study in how people are, or are not, persuaded regarding high profile incidents that raise complex and sensitive societal issues.  Since the events in Ferguson occurred, the American public has been engaged in an important national dialogue about policing practices, race, community trust, and public safety.  The dialogue is affected, and too often impeded, by people’s assumptions and biases; both the identification of problems, and the development of solutions, are adversely affected.   

Starting with a discussion of the Ferguson reports by the authors of the reports, we will then explore the reactions they elicited.  Next, we will consider the ‘science’ of persuasion, as well as attempts, successes, and failures at persuasion in other contexts from the perspective of those involved in persuading and being persuaded in legal and public arenas.  The symposium should demonstrate that taking a more critical perspective about one’s own assumptions and biases (about, among other things, race, class, and the workings of the police and other governmental institutions) is both warranted and productive.  

OrganizerClaire Hill 

Continuing Legal Education

An application for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits will be submitted. 


Register Now!

This Conference is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

Breakfast and coffee are included. Box lunches are available for purchase for $10. Instructions for ordering lunch are availabe upon registration. 

Sponsored by the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute for Law and Rationality, the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, the Human Rights Center, and the Office of Advancement. With additional sponsorship from the University’s Center for the Study of Political Psychology, and the Hennepin County Bar Association


Breakfast and Check-In: 8:15 a.m.

8:45-8:55 a.m.


8:55-9:00 a.m.

Dean’s Welcome:

Garry Jenkins, Dean of the University of Minnesota Law School

9:00-10:00 a.m.

Panel One: Writing the Reports: Ferguson and Brown/Wilson

How were the reports written? (by the authors of the reports, to include Hon. Mark Kappelhoff, 4th Judicial District, Hennepin County, Minnesota; Robert Moossy, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Fara Gold, Special Litigation Counsel, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice; and Christy Lopez, Distinguished Visitor from Practice at Georgetown University Law School and former Deputy Chief in the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.)  How did the report writers understand their task? What did they do to blunt predictable objections? (How did they predict objections?) What assumptions did they make about the prior beliefs and predispositions of their readership? What were points of disagreement among the group? What were points of agreement?  

10:00 - 10:15 a.m.


10:15- 12:15 p.m.

Panel Two: Reactions to the Report

Roundtable: Community Reactions to the Report

Commissioner Shawntera Hardy

Brian Herron

Ebony Ruhland

Roundtable: Journalist and Public Relations Perspectives

Matt Apuzzo

Jonathan Capehart

Tracy Schmaler

12:15 - 1:15 p.m.


(Box lunches will be available for purchase. If you would like to order a box lunch,  please select one when you register and bring a check (preferred) or cash for the exact amount to the conference. There is also a food court available in the building.)  

1:15 – 3:00 p.m. 

Panel Three: What persuades, as to controversial subjects: a real world perspective

Presentations: 1:15 PM- 2:00 pm

Matthew Hutson

Jonathan Salem Baskin

Marc Olivier Baruch


Roundtable: 2:00 pm-3:15pm

Hon. Jed Rakoff,

Hon. Mark Kappelhoff 

Jonathan Salem Baskin

Matt Apuzzo

Jonathan Capehart

Tracy Schmaler

Commissioner Shawntera Hardy


Panelists include journalists, lawyers, public relations people, judges, and a historian.  (The historian, Marc-Olivier Baruch , testified at the trial of war criminal Maurice Papon). 


The aim of this panel is to consider how people in the business of persuading the public in fora such as newspapers and courts, do so, from the perspective of both those doing the persuading and those to whom the persuasion is directed. 

3:15 - 3:30 p.m.


3:30 - 5:00 p.m.

Fourth Panel: What does and does not persuade: An Academic Perspective

Art Markman

Howard Lavine

John Borrows

June Carbone

Avner Ben-Ner

Claire Hill

Chris Roberts

Susanna Blumenthal


It has become increasingly clear that persuasion is no easy matter. People apparently have complex reasons for what they believe—reasons they may or may not be aware of.  And what changes minds is not in any simple way “facts” (and “facts” is not a simple concept). Indeed, presentation of a fact contrary to a held belief may cause the believer to hew more closely to that belief.  


This panel considers why arguments or recitations of “facts” intended to persuade do not persuade.  The underlying assumption is not that the arguments or recitations in some normative sense should persuade.  Rather, the inquiry is aimed at understanding the difference between the perspectives of the person intending to persuade and the person not being persuaded. 


The experts on this panel will discuss their research on how people form and adjust their beliefs.  Their areas of expertise include political science, psychology, linguistics, and law.

5:00 - 5:30 p.m.

Final Session: Discussion Among Participants and Audience

Directions and Amenities


If you have additional questions please email us at or call (612) 626-6600.