Nita A. Farahany

Nita A. Farahany

Professor of Law

Contact Information
Duke Law School 210 Science Dr, Box 90362, Durham, NC 27708
Duke Law School Room 3024, Box 90362, Durham, NC 27708-0362
(919) 613-8514


Nita A. Farahany is a leading scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of biosciences and emerging technologies, particularly those related to neuroscience and behavioral genetics. She is the Director of Duke Science & Society, the Duke MA in Bioethics & Science Policy, and a Professor of Law & Philosophy.

In 2010, Farahany was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, and continues to serve as a member. Her recent scholarship includes "Searching Secrets," 160 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1239 (2012) which explores the descriptive potential of intellectual property law as a metaphor to describe current Fourth Amendment search and seizure law and predict how the Fourth Amendment will apply to emerging technology. A related article, "Incriminating Thoughts," 64 Stanford Law Review 351 (2012) demonstrates through modern neuroscience applications the need to redefine the taxonomy of evidence subject to the privilege against self-incrimination.  She also is the editor of The Impact of Behavioral Sciences on Criminal Law  (Oxford University Press), a book of essays from experts in science, law, philosophy, and policy.

Farahany presents her work widely including to audiences at the Judicial Conferences for the Second and Ninth Circuits, the National Judicial College, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Academies of Science Workshops, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers, the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, and by testifying before Congress. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute, chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the Association of American Law Schools , on the Board of the International Neuroethics Society, and the recipient of the 2013 Paul M. Bator award given annually to an outstanding legal academic under 40.

She received her AB in genetics, cell, and developmental biology at Dartmouth College, a JD and MA from Duke University, as well as a PhD in philosophy; her dissertation was entitled "Rediscovering Criminal Responsibility through Behavioral Genetics."  Farahany also holds an ALM in biology from Harvard University. In 2004-2005, Farahany clerked for Judge Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, after which she joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University. In 2011, Farahany was the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Stanford Law School.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Duke University 2006

  • M.A., Duke University 2004

  • J.D., Duke University 2004

  • A.B., Dartmouth College 1998

Selected Grants

Duke Initiative for Science & Society - Science Policy Tracking Site project awarded by Mary Duke Biddle Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2017

Farahany, N. The Impact of Behavioral Sciences on Criminal Law. Oxford University Press, 2009. (Edited Book)

Farahany, N, and Zacharias, R. "The Legal Cycle of Life." In Finding Consciousness: The Neuroscience, Ethics, and Law of Severe Brain Damage, 229-245. Oxford University Press, 2016. (Chapter)

Farahany, N. "Introduction." In The Island of Dr. Moreau. 2014. (Chapter)

Farahany, N. "Law and Behavioral Morality." In Evolution and Morality (NOMOS LII). 2012. (Chapter)

Farahany, N. "Introduction." In The Impact of Behavioral Sciences on Criminal Law, ix-xviii. 2009. (Chapter)

Farahany, N, and Coleman Jr., J. "Genetics, Neuroscience, and Criminal Responsibility." In The Impact of Behavioral Sciences on Criminal Law, 183-240. 2009. (Chapter)

Coleman, J, and Farahany, N. "Genetics, Neuroscience, and Criminal Responsibility." In The Impact of Behavioral Sciences on Criminal Law, 183-240. 2009. (Chapter)

Farahany, N. "Neuroscience and Behavioral Genetics in US Criminal Law: An Empirical Analysis." Journal of Law & the Biosciences 2, no. 3 (2016): 485-509.

Farahany, N, and Green, R. "Regulation: The FDA is Overcautious on Consumer Genetics." Nature 505 (2015): 286-287.

Farahany, N, Chiong, W, Kim, A, Huang, I, and Josephson, S. "Testing the Presumption of Consent to Emergency Treatment for Acute Ischemic Stroke." Journal of the American Medical Association 311, no. 16 (2014): 1689-1691.

Farahany, N, Erlich, Y, Williams, J, Glazer, D, Yocum, K, Olson, M, Narayanan, A, Stein, L, Witkowski, J, and Kain, R. "Redefining Genomic Privacy: Trust and Empowerment." PLOS Biology 12, no. 11 (2014): 1-5.

Farahany, N. "Inability to Consent Does Not Diminish the Desirability of Stroke Thrombolysis." Annals of Neurology 76, no. 2 (2014): 296-304.

Farahany, N. "The Costs of Changing Our Minds." (2014).

Farahany, N. "A Neurological Foundation for Freedom." Stanford Technology Law Review 2012 (2012): 4-.


Farahany, N. "3 Reasons Brain Science is Terrific and Terrifying." World Economic Forum (2016).

Farahany, N. "Can You Legally Consent to a Head Transplant?." Washington Post (2016).

Farahany, N. "Test for "Devious Defecator" was Unlawful, Judge Rules." Washington Post (2015).

Farahany, N. "Zapping the Brain." Washington Post (2015).

Farahany, N. "New Year's Resolutions, Conservatism & Porn." Washington Post (2015).

Farahany, N. "Colleges Should Allow Students to Take Smart Drugs." Washington Post (2015).

Farahany, N. "Jurors Award $2.25M in "Devious Defecator" Case." Washington Post (2015).

Farahany, N. "On 'Being a Dirty Old Man' and a Federal Judge." Washington Post (2014).

Farahany, N. "Reining in FDA Regulation of Mobile Health Apps." Washington Post (2014).