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Full-Text Articles in Law

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 ...


Codifying A Sharia-Based Criminal Law In Developing Muslim Countries, Paul H. Robinson Apr 2019

Codifying A Sharia-Based Criminal Law In Developing Muslim Countries, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This paper reproduces presentations made at the University of Tehran in March 2019 as part of the opening and closing remarks for a Conference on Criminal Law Development in Muslim-Majority Countries. The opening remarks discuss the challenges of codifying a Shari’a-based criminal code, drawing primarily from the experiences of Professor Robinson in directing codification projects in Somalia and the Maldives. The closing remarks apply many of those lessons to the situation currently existing in Iran. Included is a discussion of the implications for Muslim countries of Robinson’s social psychology work on the power of social influence and internalized ...


A General Mitigation For Disturbance-Driven Crimes?: Psychic State, Personal Choice, And Normative Inquiries, Paul H. Robinson Oct 2018

A General Mitigation For Disturbance-Driven Crimes?: Psychic State, Personal Choice, And Normative Inquiries, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

It is argued here that the narrow provoked “heat of passion” mitigation available under current law ought to be significantly expanded to include not just murder but all felonies and not just “heat of passion” but potentially all mental or emotional disturbances, whenever the offender’s situation and capacities meaningfully reduce the offender’s blameworthiness for the violation. In determining eligibility for mitigation, the jury should take into account (a) the extent to which the offender was acting under the influence of mental or emotional disturbance (the psychic state inquiry), (b) given the offender’s situation and capacities, the extent ...


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

Strict Liability's Criminogenic Effect, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 ...


Democratizing Criminal Law: Feasibility, Utility, And The Challenge Of Social Change, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2017

Democratizing Criminal Law: Feasibility, Utility, And The Challenge Of Social Change, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The notion of “democratizing criminal law” has an initial appeal because, after all, we believe in the importance of democracy and because criminal law is so important – it protects us from the most egregious wrongs and is the vehicle by which we allow the most serious governmental intrusions in the lives of individuals. Given criminal law’s special status, isn’t it appropriate that this most important and most intrusive governmental power be subject to the constraints of democratic determination?

But perhaps the initial appeal of this grand principle must give way to practical realities. As much as we are ...


The Moral Vigilante And Her Cousins In The Shadows, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2015

The Moral Vigilante And Her Cousins In The Shadows, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

By definition, vigilantes cannot be legally justified – if they satisfied a justification defense, for example, they would not be law-breakers – but they may well be morally justified, if their aim is to provide the order and justice that the criminal justice system has failed to provide in a breach of the social contract. Yet, even moral vigilantism is detrimental to society and ought to be avoided, ideally not by prosecuting moral vigilantism but by avoiding the creation of situations that would call for it. Unfortunately, the U.S. criminal justice system has adopted a wide range of criminal law rules ...


The Proper Role Of Community In Determining Criminal Liability And Punishment, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2014

The Proper Role Of Community In Determining Criminal Liability And Punishment, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This essay argues that community views ought to have a central role in constructing criminal law and punishment rules, for both democratic and crime-control reasons, but ought not to have a role in the adjudication of individual cases. The differences in the American and Chinese debates on these issues are examined and discussed.


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

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

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 credibility ...


Report On Offense Grading In New Jersey, Paul H. Robinson, Rebecca Levenson, Nicholas Feltham, Andrew Sperl, Kristen-Elise Brooks, Agatha Koprowski, Jessica Peake, Benjamin Probber, Brian Trainor Feb 2011

Report On Offense Grading In New Jersey, Paul H. Robinson, Rebecca Levenson, Nicholas Feltham, Andrew Sperl, Kristen-Elise Brooks, Agatha Koprowski, Jessica Peake, Benjamin Probber, Brian Trainor

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The University of Pennsylvania Criminal Law Research Group was commissioned to do a study of offense grading in New Jersey. After an examination of New Jersey criminal law and a survey of New Jersey residents, the CLRG issued this Final Report. (For the report of a similar project for Pennsylvania, see Report on Offense Grading in Pennsylvania, http://ssrn.com/abstract=1527149, and for an article about the grading project, see The Modern Irrationalities of American Criminal Codes: An Empirical Study of Offense Grading, http://ssrn.com/abstract=1539083, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (forthcoming 2011).) The New Jersey ...


Advantaging Aggressors: Justice & Deterrence In International Law, Paul H. Robinson, Adil Ahmad Haque Jan 2011

Advantaging Aggressors: Justice & Deterrence In International Law, Paul H. Robinson, Adil Ahmad Haque

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Current international law imposes limitations on the use of force to defend against unlawful aggression that improperly advantage unlawful aggressors and disadvantage their victims. The Article gives examples of such rules, governing a variety of situations, showing how clearly unjust they can be. No domestic criminal law system would tolerate their use.


There are good practical reasons why international law should care that its rules are perceived as unjust. Given the lack of an effective international law enforcement mechanism, compliance depends to a large degree upon the moral authority with which international law speaks. Compliance is less likely when its ...


Mercy, Crime Control & Moral Credibility, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2011

Mercy, Crime Control & Moral Credibility, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

If, in the criminal justice context, "mercy" is defined as forgoing punishment that is deserved, then much of what passes for mercy is not. Giving only minor punishment to a first-time youthful offender, for example, might be seen as an exercise of mercy but in fact may be simply the application of standard blameworthiness principles, under which the offender's lack of maturity may dramatically reduce his blameworthiness for even a serious offense. Desert is a nuanced and rich concept that takes account of a wide variety of factors. The more a writer misperceives desert as wooden and objective, the ...


Criminalization Tensions: Empirical Desert, Changing Norms & Rape Reform, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2011

Criminalization Tensions: Empirical Desert, Changing Norms & Rape Reform, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This short Article is part of the organizers’ larger Criminalization Project, which seeks, among other things, to develop theories for how criminalization decisions should be made. The argument presented here is that there is instrumentalist, as well as deontological, value in having criminalization decisions that generally track the community’s judgments about what is sufficiently condemnable to be criminal, but that there are also good reasons to deviate from community views. Interestingly, those in the business of social reform may be the ones with the greatest stake in normally tracking community views, in order to avoid community perceptions of the ...


The Modern Irrationalities Of American Criminal Codes: An Empirical Study Of Offense Grading, Paul H. Robinson, Thomas Gaeta, Matthew Majarian, Megan Schultz, Douglas M. Weck Jul 2010

The Modern Irrationalities Of American Criminal Codes: An Empirical Study Of Offense Grading, Paul H. Robinson, Thomas Gaeta, Matthew Majarian, Megan Schultz, Douglas M. Weck

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The Model Penal Code made great advances in clarity and legality, moving most of the states from a mix of common law and ad hoc statutes to the modern American form of a comprehensive, succinct code that has served as a model around the world. Yet the decades since the wave of Model Code-based codifications have seen a steady degradation of American codes brought on by a relentless and accelerating rate of criminal law amendments that ignore the style, format, and content of the existing codes. The most damaging aspect of this trend is the exponentially increasing number of offense ...


Report On Offense Grading In Pennsylvania, Paul H. Robinson, Criminal Law Research Group, University Of Pennsylvania Law School Dec 2009

Report On Offense Grading In Pennsylvania, Paul H. Robinson, Criminal Law Research Group, University Of Pennsylvania Law School

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The Pennsylvania Legislature's Senate Judiciary Committee and House Judiciary Committee jointly commissioned this study of the criminal offense grading scheme contained in Pennsylvania criminal statutes. This Final Report, which was presented to a joint session of the two Committees on December 15, 2009, examines the extent to which current Pennsylvania law defines offenses with offense grades that are inconsistent with the relative seriousness of the offense as compared to other offenses, based upon an empirical survey of Pennsylvania residents. It also examines whether some offenses include within a single grade forms of conduct of very different degrees of seriousness ...