The Web of Penal Law: A New Approach to the Study and Teaching of American Penal Law
Markus D. Dubber
University of Toronto - Faculty of Law
Decades after the wave of penal codification set in motion by the Model Penal Code project (1953-1962), American penal law is still taught largely as a common law subject. Penal law casebooks, which have remained the dominant teaching tools, continue to collect court opinions from various times and places with little regard for the complexities of comparative legal analysis or the systematic unity of penal law. Despite their often breathtaking cross-temporal and cross-jurisdictional sweep, traditional casebooks fail to capture the enormous variety of norms and sources of modern penal law, ranging from genocide proscriptions to provisions pertaining to the proper operation of a bicycle, on the one hand, and from penal codes and other legislative enactments at the state and federal level, along with regulations issued by state and federal executive agencies, to penal norms promulgated by lower-level governmental entities, including counties, cities, towns, and villages, on the other. This paper instead develops an approach to the study and teaching of American penal law that is code-based, comparative, and comprehensive. Concluding that a new approach to American penal law also requires a new medium, the paper then outlines web-based teaching materials designed to put the proposed approach into pedagogic practice.
JEL Classification: K14
Date posted: October 14, 1998
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