Open Access. Powered by Scholars. Published by Universities.®

Law Commons

Open Access. Powered by Scholars. Published by Universities.®

Criminal Law

All Faculty Scholarship

Desert

Articles 1 - 18 of 18

Full-Text Articles in Law

Negligence And Culpability: Reflections On Alexander And Ferzan, Mitchell N. Berman Oct 2022

Negligence And Culpability: Reflections On Alexander And Ferzan, Mitchell N. Berman

All Faculty Scholarship

Philosophers of criminal punishment disagree about whether infliction of punishment for negligence can be morally justified. One contending view holds that it cannot be because punishment requires culpability and culpability requires, at a minimum, advertence to the facts that make one’s conduct wrongful. Larry Alexander and Kim Ferzan are prominent champions of this position. This essay challenges that view and their arguments for it. Invoking a conceptual distinction between an agent’s being blameworthy for an act and their deserving punishment (or suffering) for that act, it explains that an agent can be blameworthy for negligent conduct, and thus liable to …


Criminal Law’S Core Principles, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2022

Criminal Law’S Core Principles, Paul H. Robinson

All Faculty Scholarship

Modern criminal law scholars and policymakers assume they are free to construct criminal law rules by focusing exclusively on the criminal justice theory of the day. But this “blank slate” conception of criminal lawmaking is dangerously misguided. In fact, lawmakers are writing on a slate on which core principles are already indelibly written and realistically they are free only to add detail in the implementation of those principles and to add additional provisions not inconsistent with them. Attempts to do otherwise are destined to produce tragic results from both utilitarian and retributivist views.

Many writers dispute that such core principles …


Proportionality, Constraint, And Culpability, Mitchell N. Berman Sep 2021

Proportionality, Constraint, And Culpability, Mitchell N. Berman

All Faculty Scholarship

Philosophers of criminal punishment widely agree that criminal punishment should be “proportional” to the “seriousness” of the offense. But this apparent consensus is only superficial, masking significant dissensus below the surface. Proposed proportionality principles differ on several distinct dimensions, including: (1) regarding which offense or offender properties determine offense “seriousness” and thus constitute a proportionality relatum; (2) regarding whether punishment is objectionably disproportionate only when excessively severe, or also when excessively lenient; and (3) regarding whether the principle can deliver absolute (“cardinal”) judgments, or only comparative (“ordinal”) ones. This essay proposes that these differences cannot be successfully adjudicated, and one …


Blameworthiness, Desert, And Luck, Mitchell N. Berman Sep 2021

Blameworthiness, Desert, And Luck, Mitchell N. Berman

All Faculty Scholarship

Philosophers disagree about whether outcome luck can affect an agent’s “moral responsibility.” Focusing on responsibility’s “negative side,” some maintain, and others deny, that an action’s results bear constitutively on how “blameworthy” the actor is, and on how much blame or punishment they “deserve.” Crucially, both sides to the debate assume that an actor’s blameworthiness and negative desert are equally affected—or unaffected—by an action’s results. This article challenges that previously overlooked assumption, arguing that blameworthiness and desert are distinct moral notions that serve distinct normative functions: blameworthiness serves a liability function (removing a bar to otherwise impermissible treatments), whereas desert serves …


After The Crime: Rewarding Offenders’ Positive Post-Offense Conduct, Paul H. Robinson, Muhammad Sarahne Jul 2021

After The Crime: Rewarding Offenders’ Positive Post-Offense Conduct, Paul H. Robinson, Muhammad Sarahne

All Faculty Scholarship

While an offender’s conduct before and during the crime is the traditional focus of criminal law and sentencing rules, an examination of post-offense conduct can also be important in promoting criminal justice goals. After the crime, different offenders make different choices and have different experiences, and those differences can suggest appropriately different treatment by judges, correctional officials, probation and parole supervisors, and other decision-makers in the criminal justice system.

Positive post-offense conduct ought to be acknowledged and rewarded, not only to encourage it but also as a matter of fair and just treatment. This essay describes four kinds of positive …


Is Executive Function The Universal Acid?, Stephen J. Morse Nov 2020

Is Executive Function The Universal Acid?, Stephen J. Morse

All Faculty Scholarship

This essay responds to Hirstein, Sifferd and Fagan’s book, Responsible Brains (MIT Press, 2018), which claims that executive function is the guiding mechanism that supports both responsible agency and the necessity for some excuses. In contrast, I suggest that executive function is not the universal acid and the neuroscience at present contributes almost nothing to the necessary psychological level of explanation and analysis. To the extent neuroscience can be useful, it is virtually entirely dependent on well-validated psychology to correlate with the neuroscientific variables under investigation. The essay considers what executive function is and what the neuroscience adds to our …


Defense And Desert: When Reasons Don’T Share, Kimberly Kessler Ferzan Jan 2018

Defense And Desert: When Reasons Don’T Share, Kimberly Kessler Ferzan

All Faculty Scholarship

Many retributivists maintain that when a defendant commits an offense, (1) the defendant forfeits rights against punishment and (2) it is intrinsically good for the defendant to get the punishment he deserves. Self-defense theorists often maintain that when certain conditions are met, (1) an aggressor forfeits his rights against defensive force and (2) the aggressor may be harmed instrumentally to prevent his attack. In the context of a symposium on Uwe Steinhoff’s "Just War Theory," this paper examines the intersection of defense and desert. First, may desert and defense be aggregated when, for instance, the amount of harm that is …


Comments On [Israeli] Proposal For Structuring Judicial Discretion In Sentencing, Paul H. Robinson Mar 2011

Comments On [Israeli] Proposal For Structuring Judicial Discretion In Sentencing, Paul H. Robinson

All Faculty Scholarship

In this essay, Professor Robinson supports the current Israeli proposal for structuring judicial discretion in sentencing, in particular its reliance upon desert as the guiding principle for the distribution of punishment, its reliance upon benchmarks, or “starting-points,” to be adjusted in individual cases by reference to articulated mitigating and aggravating circumstances, and the proposal’s suggestion to use of an expert committee to draft the original guidelines.


Two Kinds Of Retributivism, Mitchell N. Berman Jan 2011

Two Kinds Of Retributivism, Mitchell N. Berman

All Faculty Scholarship

This essay, written as a contribution to a forthcoming volume on the philosophical foundations of the criminal law, challenges the longstanding dominant framework for classifying justifications for criminal punishment. The familiar binary distinction between consequentialism and retributivism is no longer most perspicuous, I argue, because many recognizably retributivist theories of punishment employ a consequentialist justificatory structure. However, because not all do, it might prove most illuminating to carve the retributivist field in two – distinguishing what we might term “consequentialist retributivism” (perhaps better labeled “instrumentalist retributivism”) from “non-consequentialist retributivism” (“non-instrumentalist retributivism”).

Whether or not it is ultimately persuasive, consequentialist retributivism …


Abnormal Mental State Mitigations Or Murder – The U.S. Perspective, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2011

Abnormal Mental State Mitigations Or Murder – The U.S. Perspective, Paul H. Robinson

All Faculty Scholarship

This paper examines the U.S. doctrines that allow an offender's abnormal mental state to reduce murder to manslaughter. First, the modern doctrine of "extreme emotional disturbance," as in Model Penal Code Section 210.3(1)(b), mitigates to manslaughter what otherwise would be murder when the killing "is committed under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance for which there is reasonable explanation or excuse." While most American jurisdictions are based upon the Mode Code, this is an area in which many states chose to retain their more narrow common law "provocation" mitigation. Second, the modern doctrine of "mental illness negating an …


The Disutility Of Injustice, Paul H. Robinson, Geoffrey P. Goodwin, Michael Reisig Dec 2010

The Disutility Of Injustice, Paul H. Robinson, Geoffrey P. Goodwin, Michael Reisig

All Faculty Scholarship

For more than half a century, the retributivists and the crime-control instrumentalists have seen themselves as being in an irresolvable conflict. Social science increasingly suggests, however, that this need not be so. Doing justice may be the most effective means of controlling crime. Perhaps partially in recognition of these developments, the American Law Institute's recent amendment to the Model Penal Code's "purposes" provision – the only amendment to the Model Code in the 47 years since its promulgation – adopts desert as the primary distributive principle for criminal liability and punishment. That shift to desert has prompted concerns by two …


Competing Conceptions Of Modern Desert: Vengeful, Deontological, And Empirical, Paul H. Robinson Mar 2008

Competing Conceptions Of Modern Desert: Vengeful, Deontological, And Empirical, Paul H. Robinson

All Faculty Scholarship

The dispute over the role desert should play, if any, in assessing criminal liability and punishment has a long and turbulent history. There is some indication that deserved punishment -- referred to variously as desert, just punishment, retributive punishment, or simply doing justice -- may be in ascendance, both in academic debate and in real world institutions. A number of modern sentencing guidelines have adopted it as their distributive principle. Desert is increasingly given deference in the purposes section of state criminal codes, where it can be the guiding principle in the interpretation and application of the code's provisions. Indeed, …


Culpable Acts Of Risk Creation, Larry Alexander, Kimberly Kessler Ferzan Jan 2008

Culpable Acts Of Risk Creation, Larry Alexander, Kimberly Kessler Ferzan

All Faculty Scholarship

In our view, an actor deserves punishment when he demonstrates insufficient concern for others, that is, when he engages in a culpable act of risk creation. In this essay, we address how we would rethink the actus reus so as to track the actor's culpability and blameworthiness. Part I sets forth our view that defendants deserve to be punished for culpable acts. Briefly put, an actor is culpable when he risks others' legally protected interests for insufficient reasons. In Part II, we turn to the question of how we would formulate a unit of culpable action. We argue that with …


Concordance & Conflict In Intuitions Of Justice, Paul H. Robinson, Robert O. Kurzban Jun 2007

Concordance & Conflict In Intuitions Of Justice, Paul H. Robinson, Robert O. Kurzban

All Faculty Scholarship

The common wisdom among criminal law theorists and policy makers is that the notion of desert is vague and the subject to wide disagreement. Yet the empirical evidence in available studies, including new studies reported here, paints a dramatically different picture. While moral philosophers may disagree on some aspects of moral blameworthiness, people's intuitions of justice are commonly specific, nuanced, and widely shared. Indeed, with regard to the core harms and evils to which criminal law addresses itself – physical aggression, takings without consent, and deception in transactions – people's shared intuitions cut across demographics and cultures. The findings raise …


The Role Of Moral Philosophers In The Competition Between Deontological And Empirical Desert, Paul H. Robinson Apr 2007

The Role Of Moral Philosophers In The Competition Between Deontological And Empirical Desert, Paul H. Robinson

All Faculty Scholarship

Desert appears to be in ascendence as a distributive principle for criminal liability and punishment but there is confusion as to whether it is a deontological or an empirical conception of desert that is or should be promoted. Each offers a distinct advantage over the other. Deontological desert can transcend community, situation, and time to give a conception of justice that can be relied upon to reveal errors in popular notions of justice. On the other hand, empirical desert can be more easily operationalized than can deontological desert because, contrary to common wisdom, there is a good deal of agreement …


The A.L.I.'S Proposed Distributive Principle Of 'Limiting Retributivism': Does It Mean In Practice Anything Other Than Pure Desert?, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2003

The A.L.I.'S Proposed Distributive Principle Of 'Limiting Retributivism': Does It Mean In Practice Anything Other Than Pure Desert?, Paul H. Robinson

All Faculty Scholarship

Robinson supports the proposed "purposes" text of the New American Law Institute Report on Sentencing Reform but argues that in practice it will not mean what traditional utilitarians, like those supporting "limiting retributivism," are expecting. First, the proposed text allows reliance upon non-desert distributive principles only to the extent that they serve their stated goals. As the ALI Report concedes, there are limits to the effectiveness one can expect from rehabilitation and, as is now becoming apparent from social science research, our realistic expectations for the effectiveness of deterrence are similarly fading. It is true that incapacitation undoubtedly works to …


The Utility Of Desert, Paul H. Robinson, John M. Darley Jan 1997

The Utility Of Desert, Paul H. Robinson, John M. Darley

All Faculty Scholarship

The article takes up the debate between utility and desert as distributive principles for criminal liability and punishment and concludes that a utilitarian analysis that takes account of all costs and benefits will support the distribution of liability and punishment according to desert, or at least according to the principles of desert as perceived by the community. It reaches this conclusion after an examination of a variety of recent social science data. On the one hand, it finds the traditional utilitarian theories of deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation to have little effect in many instances. It finds instead that the real …


The Criminal-Civil Distinction And The Utility Of Desert, Paul H. Robinson Jan 1996

The Criminal-Civil Distinction And The Utility Of Desert, Paul H. Robinson

All Faculty Scholarship

The communist Chinese have distinct criminal and civil systems, as do the democratic Swiss, and the monarchist Saudis.1 The criminal-civil distinction also is a basic organizing device for Islamic Pakistan, Catholic Ireland, Hindu India, and the atheistic former Soviet Union, industrialized Germany, rural Papua New Guinea, the tribal Bedouins, wealthy Singapore, impoverished Somalia, developing Thailand, newly organized Ukraine, and the ancient Romans. Apparently every society sufficiently developed to have a formal legal system usesthe criminal-civil distinction as an organizing principle. Why? Why has every society felt it necessary to create a system to impose criminal liability distinct from civil liability?