As studied in American law schools, criminal law is not only abstracted from criminal procedure but also centered around core principles (e.g., actus reus and mens rea, justification and excuse) and categories of offense (e.g., homicide, rape, inchoate crimes, and group criminality). Many substantive issues confined to the periphery of a standard criminal law course are of central importance to criminal law in real world practice. Moreover, one of the best ways to refine our understanding of the theoretical core of any subject matter is precisely to probe its periphery. In this seminar we will study important issues around the periphery of criminal law (or at least the periphery of the standard criminal law course), both for their intrinsic significance and for the perspective they may give us on the core of criminal law.
This seminar will unfold in three parts dedicated, respectively, to the limits of (a) crime, (b) criminal responsibility, and (c) punishment. In Part I, we will consider the boundaries of crime by reflecting upon several categories of offense that are under-studied in the standard criminal law course and test the limits of the substantive forms of conduct that it is legitimate and necessary to criminalize: possessory offenses (and pretextual crimes), misdemeanors, and theft offenses. In Part II, we will examine the margins of criminal responsibility by considering whether, why, and to what extent the criminal law ought to broaden its focus beyond offenders’ culpability for specific acts to concern itself with their unfair social and economic disadvantages and their criminal histories or lack thereof. In Part III, we will seek a better understanding of the nature and bounds of punishment by thinking about punishment as contrasted with such closely-related phenomena as criminal restitution, collateral consequences of punishment, and preventive detention.
|Course Areas of Practice|
Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law
Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context