Archive of Events

Archive of Events

Criminal Law and Social Change

A dominant theme in criminal law theory is that censure and punishment are appropriate only insofar as they are proportional responses to culpable actions. The problem is that much of existing criminal law does not fit this model. A number of responses to this mismatch have been proposed. Perhaps the criminal law should be reformed to match the theory; perhaps we can do more to understand how even violations of mala prohibita offenses are culpable; perhaps we need to take this connection as aspirational but not strictly binding; or perhaps we should recognize that the connection between punishment and culpable actions is just a misguided ideological fixation—in truth, we are better off using a utilitarian conception of the criminal law, according to which it is just a tool to be used to deter potential criminal action and incapacitate potential criminals in whatever way best serves society. I reject all of these options and defend a different account. I argue that the criminal justice system draws on two normative frameworks. Criminal law properly conceived calls for and licenses censure and punishment, but only insofar as they are proportional responses to culpable actions. Penal law operates as a complement to criminal law. It is not responsive (at least not in the same way) to the culpability of action, and it grounds no censure. But it allows for penalties that exceed those that would be proportional to the culpability of an action (and certainly than those that fit Ordnungswidrigkeiten). It is also responsive to, in ways the criminal law is not, the benefits of incapacitating the dangerous. It can do these things because it operates on a separate basis: not retributive response to culpable action but fair forfeiture of the right not to be penalized. These two foundations can be harmonized to provide a normative account of the criminal justice system that fits the law reasonably well but still has some revisionist force. [more]

Centering Victims in Criminal Justice: Philosophical and Legal Perspectives

Conference Panel
  • Date: Sep 15, 2023
  • Time: 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM (Tokyo UTC+09:00)
  • Panel organized by: Otto Hahn Research Group on Alternative and Informal Systems of Crime Control and Criminal Justice (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law)
  • Location: Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto/Japan
  • Host: AIDP Young Penalists Committee
– Within the framework of the 11th International Association of Penal Law (AIDP) Young Penalists Symposium on Victim-Centered Criminal Justice – [more]
The event brings together researchers from all over Europe and the US to present and discuss their latest research from the Zurich Project on Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood (z-proso). – Registration required! Please contact Ms Straka under [more]
The ‘Big Data Revolution’ has allowed accumulating significant amounts of statistical data covering all areas of life. Such data can have high probative value in legal trials. Still, courts in and outside the UK have been ambivalent about the possibility of mak­­ing legal judgements based solely on statistics. The presen­­ta­­­tion will seek to uncover the root of this ambivalence, and to suggest that it highlights a fundamental connection between practical normativity and epistemic normativity. The argument will be that a Razian concept of respect for persons provides reasons against legal judgments of liability based solely on statistics. This is because statistics logically bar the elimination of the risk of error, and relatedly, they cannot justify belief in the availability of reasons to make a judgment of liability. The presentation will further seek to demonstrate that the argument carries over to non-legal spheres in which the Razian notion of respect plays a role. The UK’s attempt to determine A-level grades algorithmically during the Covid-19 pandemic provides an example. [more]
Legal hermeneutics could be deemed a broader notion than just legal interpretation. When legal practitioners cope with the law, they often do much more than merely interpret it. Arguably, they engage in legal construction, apply the law to a case at hand, and exercise discretion. In this spirit, the workshop aims to take this more comprehensive perspective of legal hermeneutics ­seriously by inviting its participants to address these various hermeneutic activities in legal adjudication. [more]
The rule of law, once widely embraced and emulated, now faces serious threats to its viability. To get our bearings we must return to first principles. Law’s Rule: The Nature, Value, and Viability of the Rule of Law articulates and defends a coherent, compre­hen­sive, and compelling conception of the rule of law and defends it against serious challenges to its intelligibility, relevance, and normative force. In this lecture, Postema will sketch the basic outlines of this conception and the values it serves. The rule of law’s ambition, he will argue, is to provide protection and recourse against the arbitrary exercise of power using the distinctive tools of the law. Law provides a bulwark of protection, a bridle on the powerful, and a bond constituting and holding together the polity and giving public expression to an ideal mode of association. Two principles immediately follow from this core: sovereignty of law, demanding that those who exercise ruling power govern with law and that law governs them, and equality in the eyes of the law, demanding that law’s protection extend to all who are bound by it. Animating law’s rule, the ethos of fidelity commits all members of the political community to take responsibility for holding each other accountable under the law. The moral foundation of this demanding ideal lies in a commitment to common membership of each person in this community, recognizing their freedom, dignity, and status as peers. The lecture will consider the relationship between democracy, human rights, and the rule of law and will conclude with thoughts on some of the most serious threats to the viability of law’s rule. [more]

Just War and Self-Defence

Guest Lecture Series “Society: Status Quo and Normative Change”
Just war theorising has undergone a renaissance inspired by the ground-breaking work of Jeff McMahan. Central to the new orthodoxy is the claim that self-defence is a right that can justify a right to inflict harm on unlawful aggressors. Crucially, this is a right to inflict harm available to both the victim and others even if these others are not harmed or threatened. This talk explores how this view of just war as self-defence justifying a right to harm is based on a misunderstanding of how self-defence works in criminal law. This alternative view understands self-defence as a kind of defence, such as duress, which might provide an excuse for wrongs and not a justification to do wrong. The talk examines the consequences for just war theorising, such as whether understanding just war as excused sets a higher threshold for justification. [more]
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