Criminal Law Desert & Punishment

This seminar examines the common assumption that criminal wrongs and moral wrongs are closely related and that state punishment should track moral desert in some meaningful way. The seminar asks whether moral desert should have a place in our understanding of criminal law at all, and what shape moral desert assumes and should assume when it is fashioned as the core of a state institution. These questions will be examined through a study of various theoretical issues, such as justification of punishment, the harm principle, criminalization, self-defense, necessity, and malum prohibitum. Students must write a short reaction paper every week, and they are expected to participate actively in all discussions. In addition, students may elect to write a research paper (including one that may be used to satisfy the upper-class writing requirement), for which they will receive an additional credit (for a total of three credits).