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Psychiatry, criminal law, mental health and drug law, public health law, bioethics, human rights and psychiatry, death penalty, aging and the law, insanity and competency

Institute of Law,
Psychiatry and Public Policy


Richard J. Bonnie

Harrison Foundation Professor of Medicine and Law
Class of 1941 Research Professor of Law
Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences
Director, Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy
Professor of Public Policy, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

LL.B., University of Virginia School of Law, 1969
B.A., Johns Hopkins University, 1966

Richard J. Bonnie is Harrison Foundation Professor of Law and Medicine, Professor of Public Policy, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, and Director of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. ­­He teaches and writes about health law and policy, bioethics, criminal law, and public policies relating to mental health, substance abuse, and public health. He has co-authored leading textbooks on criminal law and public health law. His first book, The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States (1974) was republished in 1999 as a “drug policy classic.”

Bonnie has been actively involved in public service throughout his career. Among other positions, he has been Associate Director of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (1971-73); Secretary of the first National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (1975- 80); chair of Virginia’s State Human Rights Committee responsible for protecting rights of persons with mental disabilities (1979-85), and chief advisor for the ABA Criminal Justice­ Mental Health Standards Project (1981-88). He recently chaired a Commission on Mental Health Law Reform at the request of the Chief Justice of Virginia (2006-2011) and is now chairing an expert advisory panel for the Virginia General Assembly’s Study of Mental Health Services in the 21st Century.

Bonnie has ­served as an advisor to the American Psychiatric Association Council on Psychiatry and Law since 1979, received the APA’s Isaac Ray Award in 1998 for contributions to the field of forensic psychiatry, and was awarded special presidential commendations in 2003 and 2016 for his contributions to American psychiatry. He has also served on three MacArthur Foundation research networks -- on Mental Health and the Law (1988-96), Mandated Community Treatment (2000–2010) and Law and Neuroscience (since 2008).

Bonnie was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 1991 and has chaired numerous studies for the National Academies on subjects ranging from elder mistreatment to underage drinking, including the landmark report, Ending the Tobacco Problem: A Blueprint for the Nation (2007). Most recently, he chaired two Academy studies on juvenile justice reform (2013, 2014) as well as related studies on the health and well-being of young adults (2014) and the minimum legal age for access to tobacco (2015). He is currently chairing a study on policies needed to end the opioid epidemic in the United States. He received the Yarmolinsky Medal in 2002 for his contributions to the National Academies. He was elected to the American Law Institute in 2014.

In 2007, Bonnie received the University of Virginia’s highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award.

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