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Full-Text Articles in Law

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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 ...


Criminal Law’S Core Principles, Paul H. Robinson Feb 2021

Criminal Law’S Core Principles, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 ...


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

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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 ...


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

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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 ...


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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 is ...


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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 ...


Abnormal Mental State Mitigations Of Murder – The U.S. Perspective, Paul H. Robinson Sep 2010

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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 ...


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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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, a ...


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

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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 ...


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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 ...


How Psychology Is Changing The Punishment Theory Debate, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2007

How Psychology Is Changing The Punishment Theory Debate, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This brief essay reviews the contributions that social psychology is making the debate among criminal law theorists on the proper principle for the distribution of criminal liability and punishment. Included are a discussion of suggestions that deterrence may be ineffective as a distributive principle, that incapacitation of dangerous persons may be effective but might be more effective if pursued through a detention system distinct from the criminal justice system, and that desert as a distributive principle, ironically, might be the most effective for controlling crime. Available for download at http://ssrn.com/abstract=956130