Elyn Saks is Orrin B. Evans Distinguished Professor of Law, Professor of Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the USC Gould School of Law; Director of the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics; Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the UC San Diego, School of Medicine; and Faculty at the New Center for Psychoanalysis. She served as USC Gould's associate dean for research from 2005-2010 and also teaches at the Keck School of Medicine. Saks received her JD from Yale Law School, and a PhD in Psychoanalytic Science from the New Center for Psychoanalysis. She was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree (LLD, Hon) from Pepperdine University.
Saks writes extensively in the area of law and mental health, having published five books and more than fifty articles and book chapters. Her research has included the ethical dimensions of psychiatric research and forced treatment of people with mental illness. Her memoir, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, describes her struggles with schizophrenia and her managing to craft a good life for herself in the face of a dire prognosis. She has won numerous honors, including a 2009 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship (the so-called “Genius Grant”).
In fall 2010, she announced she was using funds from the MacArthur Fellowship to create the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics at USC, a think tank that studies issues at the intersection of law, mental health, and ethics. The Institute spotlights one important mental health issue per academic year and is a collaborative effort that has included faculty and graduate students from several USC departments: law, psychiatry, psychology, social work, philosophy, neuroscience, gerontology, and engineering.
In addition the The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (Hachette, 2007), other books include Informed Consent to Psychoanalysis: The Law, the Theory, and the Data (Fordham University Press, 2013), Refusing Care: Forced Treatment and the Rights of the Mentally Ill (University of Chicago Press, 2002), Interpreting Interpretation: The Limits of Hermeneutic Psychoanalysis (Yale University Press, 1999), and Jekyll on Trial: Multiple Personality Disorder and Criminal Law (New York University Press, 1997).
Before joining the USC Gould faculty in 1989, Saks was an attorney in Connecticut and instructor at the University of Bridgeport School of Law. She graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University before earning her master of letters from Oxford University and her JD from Yale, where she edited the Yale Law Journal. Saks is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 2013, she was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to a three-year term on the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) National Advisory Council. She also serves as a board member of Mental Health Advocacy Services, Bring Change 2 Mind, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and the Burton Blatt Institute. In 2004, she won both the Associate’s Award for Creativity in Research and Scholarship and the Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award.