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The Slayer Rule

92 Boston U L Rev 793-810 (2012)

18 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2012 Last revised: 21 Oct 2012

Nili Cohen

Tel-Aviv University

Date Written: 2012


The nowadays universal 'slayer rule' is based on considerations of autonomy and public policy. It is the subject of the detailed and thoughtful section 45 of Restatement Third Restitution. Different answers were given in different periods, among them biblical times, to the question whether a slayer could inherit the testator he had killed. The complexity of the matter is rooted in the different perceptions regarding the limits of law, the relations between the legislator and the judiciary, the tensions between text and context; rules and standards; public and private spheres and criminal and private sanctions. The contradictory considerations behind the rule lead to conflicting proposals either to expand or to restrict its application. But the whole question is much wider. It concerns the proper scope of the principle of 'ex turpi causa' in private law and the need to regulate by rules some intriguing questions of corrective, distributive and retributive justice.

Keywords: restitution, property, criminal law, comparative law, jurisprudence, contracts

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Nili, The Slayer Rule (2012). 92 Boston U L Rev 793-810 (2012). Available at SSRN: or

Nili Cohen (Contact Author)

Tel-Aviv University ( email )

Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv 69978, IL

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