The Web of Penal Law: A New Approach to the Study and Teaching of American Penal Law

Posted: 14 Oct 1998  

Markus D. Dubber

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: September 1998


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

Suggested Citation

Dubber, Markus D., The Web of Penal Law: A New Approach to the Study and Teaching of American Penal Law (September 1998). Available at SSRN:

Markus D. Dubber (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5


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