What Is Criminal Law About?
35 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2016 Last revised: 7 Apr 2017
Date Written: 2016
In a recent critique, Jens Ohlin faults contemporary criminal law textbooks for emphasizing philosophy, history and social science at the expense of doctrinal training. In this response, we argue that the political importance of criminal law justifies including reflection about the justice of punishment in the professional education of lawyers. First, we argue that both understanding and evaluating criminal law doctrine requires consideration of political philosophy, legal history, and empirical research. Second, we argue that the indeterminacy of criminal law doctrine on some fundamental questions means that criminal lawyers often cannot avoid invoking normative theory in fashioning legal arguments. Finally, we argue that the high stakes of criminal law and its contingency on democratic politics make criminal law teaching as much a matter of civic education as of technical education.
Keywords: Criminal Law, Legal Education, Punishment Theory, Legal History, Race Discrimination
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