U.Va. Professor Richard Bonnie Wins 2007 Thomas Jefferson Award

Oct. 26, 2007 — Richard J. Bonnie, the University of Virginia’s Harrison Foundation Professor of Medicine and Law, and director and co-founder of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy, received the Thomas Jefferson Award during U.Va.’s Fall Convocation today.

Bonnie is the 54th winner of the award, the University’s highest honor, which has been given annually since 1955 to a member of the University community who exemplifies in character, work and influence the principles and ideals of Jefferson, and thus advances the objectives for which he founded the University.

The Thomas Jefferson Award presentation was part of the Convocation ceremony in University Hall that included recognition of third-year U.Va. students who have earned intermediate honors, and a keynote address by Dr. Arthur Garson Jr., U.Va. executive vice president and provost.

In presenting the award to Bonnie, U.Va. President John T. Casteen III read from a citation, “The world’s foremost legal expert in the field of mental health law, Mr. Bonnie has fundamentally shaped the way in which doctors, lawyers and citizens approach their relationship with some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Bonnie, who also is the Hunton & Williams Research Professor, is an expert in the fields of criminal law and procedure, mental health and drug law, public health law and bioethics.

He has been actively involved in public service throughout his academic career. He served as a member of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse from 1975-80; from 1979-1985, he was chairman of Virginia's State Human Rights Committee, which is responsible for protecting the rights of residents and clients of Virginia's public mental health and mental retardation services system. Bonnie served on the advisory board for the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards Project from 1981-88, from 2004-2007 on the ABA Task Force on Mental Illness and the Death Penalty, and from 1988-1996 on the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Mental Health and the Law.

He currently chairs the Commonwealth of Virginia Commission on Mental Health Law Reform, established by the Supreme Court of Virginia in 2006. He is also currently participating in the MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on Mandated Community Treatment, as well as its new initiative on law and neuroscience. He has served as an adviser to the American Psychiatric Association's Council on Psychiatry and Law since 1979.

Bonnie was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1991. In 2002, he was awarded the Yarmolinsky Medal for his extraordinary service to the IOM and the National Academies. He currently chairs an IOM/National Research Council committee on reducing tobacco use, and is serving on the NRC Committee on Law and Justice, as well as the governing board for the Division on the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Bonnie has previously chaired IOM committees on underage drinking (2002-03), injury prevention and control (1997-98) and opportunities in drug abuse research (1995-96), as well as an NRC panel on elder abuse and neglect (2001-02).

Bonnie was vice-chairman of the IOM Committee on Preventing Nicotine Dependence in Children and Youths (1993-94) and was a member of the IOM Committee on Increasing Rates of Organ Donation (2005-06), the IOM Committee to Assess the System for Protection of Human Research Subjects (2000-02), the IOM Committee to Assess the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction (1999-2001) and the NRC Committee on Data and Research for Policy on Illegal Drugs (1998-2001).

He has long been interested in issues involving psychiatry and human rights. In 1989, he was a member of the U.S. Department of State delegation that assessed changes in the Soviet Union relating to political abuse of psychiatry, and performed a similar mission for the World Psychiatric Association in 1991. In 1993, he became a member of the advisory board of the Network of Reformers in Psychiatry in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and was a member of the board of directors of the Global Initiative on Psychiatry from 1997-2006.

Bonnie is a fellow of the Virginia Law Foundation. He is a charter fellow of the College on the Problems of Drug Dependence and has served twice on its board. He is co-chair of Physicians and Lawyers for National Drug Policy, an organization established in 2004 as a public health partnership to promote evidence-based policies relating to alcohol and other addictive drugs.

He has received numerous awards, including the American Psychiatric Association's Isaac Ray Award in 1998 for his "contributions to forensic psychiatry and the psychiatric aspects of jurisprudence" and a special presidential commendation from the APA in 2003. He was selected as a distinguished honorary fellow of the American Psychology-Law Society in 2007. Bonnie has been a visiting fellow at the Institute of Criminology of Cambridge University and a visiting professor at Cornell Law School.

Bonnie has written or edited 15 books, contributed numerous book chapters and published countless journal articles. He has also provided expert testimony before Congress, most recently appearing Oct. 3 before the House Subcommittee on Health for a bill that would, among other things, give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products.

“With humanity, insight, humor and humility, his elegant works are wide in their scope and profound in their impact,” Casteen read from the citation. “Hailed as classics of evidence-rich policy analysis, they have brought rigorous scientific evidence to bear on some of the most urgent and complex problems of public policy.”

In addition to his service and scholarship, Bonnie is a gifted teacher. “His classes help frame exciting and novel ways of seeing the world that students treasure as lifelong gifts,” Casteen also read from the citation. “His honesty and integrity, keenness of insight and devotion to the public good have affected hundreds of students and colleagues, and innumerable citizens of the commonwealth, the nation and the world.”

Bonnie received his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1966 and his law degree from U.Va. in 1969. Immediately following his graduation from law school, he became an assistant law professor at U.Va. for one year before a period of military service and a post as associate director of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. He returned to the U.Va. faculty in 1973, and in 1979, co-founded and became director of U.Va.’s Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy.

REPORTERS: The citation on behalf of this year’s Thomas Jefferson Award recipient, Richard Bonnie, can be viewed at www.virginia.edu/uvatoday/faculty/tjaward_citation_2007.html.