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The Trouble With Time Served, Kimberly Ferzan Jul 2023

The Trouble With Time Served, Kimberly Ferzan

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Every jurisdiction in the United States gives criminal defendants “credit” against their sentence for the time they spend detained pretrial. In a world of mass incarceration and overcriminalization that disproportionately impacts people of color, this practice appears to be a welcome mechanism for mercy and justice. In fact, however, crediting detainees for time served is perverse. It harms the innocent. A defendant who is found not guilty, or whose case is dismissed, gets nothing. Crediting time served also allows the state to avoid internalizing the full costs of pretrial detention, thereby making overinclusive detention standards less expensive. Finally, crediting time …


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

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

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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 …


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

Proportionality, Constraint, And Culpability, Mitchell N. Berman

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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

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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

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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

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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 …


The Concept Of Criminal Law, Sandra G. Mayson Jan 2020

The Concept Of Criminal Law, Sandra G. Mayson

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What distinguishes “criminal law” from all other law? This question should be central to both criminal law theory and criminal justice reform. Clarity about the distinctive feature(s) of criminal law is especially important in the current moment, as the nation awakens to the damage that the carceral state has wrought and reformers debate the value and the future of criminal law institutions. Foundational though it is, however, the question has received limited attention. There is no clear consensus among contemporary scholars or reformers about what makes the criminal law unique.

This Essay argues that Antony Duff’s The Realm of Criminal …


Foreword: Abolition Constitutionalism, Dorothy E. Roberts Jan 2019

Foreword: Abolition Constitutionalism, Dorothy E. Roberts

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In this Foreword, I make the case for an abolition constitutionalism that attends to the theorizing of prison abolitionists. In Part I, I provide a summary of prison abolition theory and highlight its foundational tenets that engage with the institution of slavery and its eradication. I discuss how abolition theorists view the current prison industrial complex as originating in, though distinct from, racialized chattel slavery and the racial capitalist regime that relied on and sustained it, and their movement as completing the “unfinished liberation” sought by slavery abolitionists in the past. Part II considers whether the U.S. Constitution is an …


How Should Justice Policy Treat Young Offenders?, B J. Casey, Richard J. Bonnie, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris B. Hoffman, Owen D. Jones, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth S. Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim A. Taylor-Thompson, Anthony D. Wagner Feb 2017

How Should Justice Policy Treat Young Offenders?, B J. Casey, Richard J. Bonnie, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris B. Hoffman, Owen D. Jones, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth S. Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim A. Taylor-Thompson, Anthony D. Wagner

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The justice system in the United States has long recognized that juvenile offenders are not the same as adults, and has tried to incorporate those differences into law and policy. But only in recent decades have behavioral scientists and neuroscientists, along with policymakers, looked rigorously at developmental differences, seeking answers to two overarching questions: Are young offenders, purely by virtue of their immaturity, different from older individuals who commit crimes? And, if they are, how should justice policy take this into account?

A growing body of research on adolescent development now confirms that teenagers are indeed inherently different from adults, …


Strict Liability's Criminogenic Effect, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2017

Strict Liability's Criminogenic Effect, Paul H. Robinson

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It is easy to understand the apparent appeal of strict liability to policymakers and legal reformers seeking to reduce crime: if the criminal law can do away with its traditional culpability requirement, it can increase the likelihood of conviction and punishment of those who engage in prohibited conduct or bring about prohibited harm or evil. And such an increase in punishment rate can enhance the crime-control effectiveness of a system built upon general deterrence or incapacitation of the dangerous. Similar arguments support the use of criminal liability for regulatory offenses. Greater punishment rates suggest greater compliance.

But this analysis fails …


Addiction, Choice And Criminal Law, Stephen J. Morse Jan 2017

Addiction, Choice And Criminal Law, Stephen J. Morse

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This chapter is a contribution to a volume, Addiction and Choice, edited by Nick Heather and Gabriel Segal that is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. Some claim that addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease; others claim that it is a product of choice; yet others think that addictions have both disease and choice aspects. Which of these views holds sway in a particular domain enormously influences how that domain treats addictions. With limited exceptions, Anglo-American criminal law has implicitly adopted the choice model and a corresponding approach to responsibility. Addiction is irrelevant to the criteria for the …


Rationing Criminal Justice, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas Jan 2017

Rationing Criminal Justice, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas

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Of the many diagnoses of American criminal justice’s ills, few focus on externalities. Yet American criminal justice systematically overpunishes in large part because few mechanisms exist to force consideration of the full social costs of criminal justice interventions. Actors often lack good information or incentives to minimize the harms they impose. Part of the problem is structural: criminal justice is fragmented vertically among governments, horizontally among agencies, and individually among self-interested actors. Part is a matter of focus: doctrinally and pragmatically, actors overwhelmingly view each case as an isolated, short-term transaction to the exclusion of broader, long-term, and aggregate effects. …


Actions Speak Louder Than Images: The Use Of Neuroscientific Evidence In Criminal Cases, Stephen J. Morse Jun 2016

Actions Speak Louder Than Images: The Use Of Neuroscientific Evidence In Criminal Cases, Stephen J. Morse

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This invited commentary for Journal of Law & the Biosciences considers four empirical studies previously published in the journal of the reception of neuroscientific evidence in criminal cases in the United States, Canada, England and Wales, and the Netherlands. There are conceded methodological problems with all, but the data are nonetheless instructive and suggestive. The thesis of the comment is that the courts are committing the same errors that have bedeviled the reception of psychiatric and psychological evidence. There is insufficient caution about the state of the science, and more importantly, there is insufficient understanding of the relevance of the …


Predicting The Knowledge–Recklessness Distinction In The Human Brain, Iris Vilares, Michael J. Wesley, Woo-Young Woo-Young Ahn, Richard J. Bonnie, Morris B. Hoffman, Owen D. Jones, Stephen J. Morse, Gideon Yaffe, Terry Lohrenz, Read Montague Jan 2016

Predicting The Knowledge–Recklessness Distinction In The Human Brain, Iris Vilares, Michael J. Wesley, Woo-Young Woo-Young Ahn, Richard J. Bonnie, Morris B. Hoffman, Owen D. Jones, Stephen J. Morse, Gideon Yaffe, Terry Lohrenz, Read Montague

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Criminal convictions require proof that a prohibited act was performed in a statutorily specified mental state. Different legal consequences, including greater punishments, are mandated for those who act in a state of knowledge, compared with a state of recklessness. Existing research, however, suggests people have trouble classifying defendants as knowing, rather than reckless, even when instructed on the relevant legal criteria.

We used a machine-learning technique on brain imaging data to predict, with high accuracy, which mental state our participants were in. This predictive ability depended on both the magnitude of the risks and the amount of information about those …


What's Wrong With Sentencing Equality?, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas Jan 2016

What's Wrong With Sentencing Equality?, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas

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Equality in criminal sentencing often translates into equalizing outcomes and stamping out variations, whether race-based, geographic, or random. This approach conflates the concept of equality with one contestable conception focused on outputs and numbers, not inputs and processes. Racial equality is crucial, but a concern with eliminating racism has hypertrophied well beyond race. Equalizing outcomes seems appealing as a neutral way to dodge contentious substantive policy debates about the purposes of punishment. But it actually privileges deterrence and incapacitation over rehabilitation, subjective elements of retribution, and procedural justice, and it provides little normative guidance for punishment. It also has unintended …


The Rise And Fall And Resurrection Of American Criminal Codes, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2015

The Rise And Fall And Resurrection Of American Criminal Codes, Paul H. Robinson

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This brief essay summarizes the virtues of the modern American codification movement of the 1960s and 70s, putting it in a larger global context, then describes how these once-enviable codes have been systematically degraded with thoughtless amendments, a process of degradation that is accelerating each year. After exploring the political dynamics that promote such degradation, the essay suggests the principles and procedures for fixing the current codes and, more importantly, structural changes to the process that could avoid the restart of degradation in the future.


Collateral Consequences And The Preventive State, Sandra G. Mayson Jan 2015

Collateral Consequences And The Preventive State, Sandra G. Mayson

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Approximately eight percent of adults in the United States have a felony conviction. The “collateral consequences” of criminal conviction (CCs) — legal disabilities imposed by legislatures on the basis of conviction, but not as part of the sentence — have relegated that group to permanent second class legal status. Despite the breadth and significance of this demotion, the Constitution has provided no check; courts have almost uniformly rejected constitutional challenges to CCs. Among scholars, practitioners and mainstream media, a consensus has emerged that the courts have erred by failing to recognize CCs as a form of additional punishment. Courts should …


Punishment: Drop City And The Utopian Communes, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson Jan 2015

Punishment: Drop City And The Utopian Communes, Paul H. Robinson, Sarah M. Robinson

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Using stories from the utopian non-punishment hippie communes of the late 1960's, the essay challenges today’s anti-punishment movement by demonstrating that the benefits of cooperative action are available only with the adoption of a system for punishing violations of core rules. Rather than being an evil system anathema to right-thinking people, punishment is the lynchpin of the cooperative action that has created human success.

This is Chapter 3 from the general audience book Pirates, Prisoners, and Lepers: Lessons from Life Outside the Law. Chapter 4 of the book is also available on SSRN at http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=2416484).


Forfeiture Of Illegal Gains, Attempts And Implied Risk Preferences, Jonathan Klick, Murat C. Mungan Jan 2014

Forfeiture Of Illegal Gains, Attempts And Implied Risk Preferences, Jonathan Klick, Murat C. Mungan

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In the law enforcement literature there is a presumption—supported by some experimental and econometric evidence—that criminals are more responsive to increases in the certainty than the severity of punishment. Under a general set of assumptions, this implies that criminals are risk seeking. We show that this implication is no longer valid when forfeiture of illegal gains and the possibility of unsuccessful attempts are considered. Therefore, when drawing inferences concerning offenders’ attitudes toward risk based on their responses to various punishment schemes, special attention must be paid to whether and to what extent offenders’ illegal gains can be forfeited and whether …


Empirical Desert, Individual Prevention, And Limiting Retributivism: A Reply, Paul H. Robinson, Joshua Samuel Barton, Matthew J. Lister Jan 2014

Empirical Desert, Individual Prevention, And Limiting Retributivism: A Reply, Paul H. Robinson, Joshua Samuel Barton, Matthew J. Lister

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A number of articles and empirical studies over the past decade, most by Paul Robinson and co-authors, have suggested a relationship between the extent of the criminal law's reputation for being just in its distribution of criminal liability and punishment in the eyes of the community – its "moral credibility" – and its ability to gain that community's deference and compliance through a variety of mechanisms that enhance its crime-control effectiveness. This has led to proposals to have criminal liability and punishment rules reflect lay intuitions of justice – "empirical desert" – as a means of enhancing the system's moral …


Law And Neuroscience: Recommendations Submitted To The President's Bioethics Commission, Owen D. Jones, Richard J. Bonnie, B. J. Casey, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris Hoffman, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim Taylor-Thompson, Anthony Wagner, Gideon Yaffe Jan 2014

Law And Neuroscience: Recommendations Submitted To The President's Bioethics Commission, Owen D. Jones, Richard J. Bonnie, B. J. Casey, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris Hoffman, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim Taylor-Thompson, Anthony Wagner, Gideon Yaffe

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President Obama charged the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to identify a set of core ethical standards in the neuroscience domain, including the appropriate use of neuroscience in the criminal-justice system. The Commission, in turn, called for comments and recommendations. The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience submitted a consensus statement, published here, containing 16 specific recommendations. These are organized within three main themes: 1) what steps should be taken to enhance the capacity of the criminal justice system to make sound decisions regarding the admissibility and weight of neuroscientific evidence?; 2) to what extent …


Constitutionally Tailoring Punishment, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas Dec 2013

Constitutionally Tailoring Punishment, Richard A. Bierschbach, Stephanos Bibas

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Since the turn of the century, the Supreme Court has begun to regulate non-capital sentencing under the Sixth Amendment in the Apprendi line of cases (requiring jury findings of fact to justify sentence enhancements) as well as under the Eighth Amendment in the Miller and Graham line of cases (forbidding mandatory life imprisonment for juvenile defendants). Though both lines of authority sound in individual rights, in fact they are fundamentally about the structures of criminal justice. These two seemingly disparate lines of doctrine respond to structural imbalances in non-capital sentencing by promoting morally appropriate punishment judgments that are based on …


A Good Enough Reason: Addiction, Agency And Criminal Responsibility, Stephen J. Morse Jan 2013

A Good Enough Reason: Addiction, Agency And Criminal Responsibility, Stephen J. Morse

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The article begins by contrasting medical and moral views of addiction and how such views influence responsibility and policy analysis. It suggests that since addiction always involves action and action can always be morally evaluated, we must independently decide whether addicts do not meet responsibility criteria rather than begging the question and deciding by the label of ‘disease’ or ‘moral weakness’. It then turns to the criteria for criminal responsibility and shows that the criteria for criminal responsibility, like the criteria for addiction, are all folk psychological. Therefore, any scientific information about addiction must be ‘translated’ into the law’s folk …


Abolition Of The Insanity Defense Violates Due Process, Stephen J. Morse, Richard J. Bonnie Jan 2013

Abolition Of The Insanity Defense Violates Due Process, Stephen J. Morse, Richard J. Bonnie

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This article, which is based on and expands on an amicus brief the authors submitted to the United States Supreme Court, first provides the moral argument in favor of the insanity defense. It considers and rejects the most important moral counterargument and suggests that jurisdictions have considerable leeway in deciding what test best meets their legal and moral policies. The article then discusses why the two primary alternatives to the insanity defense, the negation of mens rea and considering mental disorder at sentencing, are insufficient to achieve the goal of responding justly to severely mentally disordered offenders. The last section …


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

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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.


The Pitfalls Of Professionalized Prosecution: A Response To Josh Bowers's "Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, And The Equitable Decision Not To Prosecute", Stephanos Bibas Jan 2011

The Pitfalls Of Professionalized Prosecution: A Response To Josh Bowers's "Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, And The Equitable Decision Not To Prosecute", Stephanos Bibas

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This short essay responds to Josh Bowers’ article Legal Guilt, Normative Innocence, and the Equitable Decision Not to Prosecute. While most scholars focus on the most visible injustices in the most serious cases, Bowers rightly notes that this sliver of serious felonies is dwarfed by the mountain of minor, low-visibility misdemeanors and violations. Prosecutors are reasonably good at classifying crimes based on legal guilt and administrative criteria, but are far worse at weighing all the particulars and exercising equitable discretion. Our consistent faith in prosecutors’ expertise, Bowers argues, is not only misguided but backwards; we should value outsiders’ fresh …


Two Kinds Of Retributivism, Mitchell N. Berman Jan 2011

Two Kinds Of Retributivism, Mitchell N. Berman

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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 …


Do Judges Vary In Their Treatment Of Race?, David S. Abrams, Marianne Bertrand, Sendhil Mullainathan Sep 2010

Do Judges Vary In Their Treatment Of Race?, David S. Abrams, Marianne Bertrand, Sendhil Mullainathan

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Are minorities treated differently by the legal system? Systematic racial differences in case characteristics, many unobservable, make this a difficult question to answer directly. In this paper, we estimate whether judges differ from each other in how they sentence minorities, avoiding potential bias from unobservable case characteristics by exploiting the random assignment of cases to judges. We measure the between-judge variation in the difference in incarceration rates and sentence lengths between African-American and White defendants. We perform a Monte Carlo simulation in order to explicitly construct the appropriate counterfactual, where race does not influence judicial sentencing. In our data set, …


Restoration But Also More Justice, Stephanos Bibas Jan 2009

Restoration But Also More Justice, Stephanos Bibas

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This short essay replies to Erik Luna's endorsement of restorative justice. He is right that the goal of healing victims, defendants, and their families is important but all too often neglected by substantive criminal law and procedure, which is far too state-centered and impersonal. The problem with restorative justice is that too often it seeks to sweep away punishment as barbaric and downplays the need for deterrence and incapacitation as well. In short, restorative justice deserves more of a role in American criminal justice. Shorn of its political baggage and reflexive hostility to punishment, restorative justice has much to teach …


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

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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, …