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Intuitions of Justice and the Utility of Desert [Hardcover]

by Paul H. Robinson

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Book Description

May 3, 2013 0199917728 978-0199917723
Research suggests that people of all demographics have nuanced and sophisticated notions of justice. The core of those judgments is often intuition rather than reason. Should the criminal law heed what principles are embodied in those deep seated judgments?

In Intuitions of Justice and the Utility of Desert, Paul H. Robinson demonstrates that criminal law rules that deviate from public conceptions of justice and desert can seriously undermine the American criminal justice system's integrity and credibility by failing to recognize or meet the needs of the communities it serves.

Professor Robinson sketches the contours of a wide range of lay conceptions of what criminals justly deserve, touching upon many issues that penal code drafters or policy makers must face, including normative crime control, culpability, grading, sentencing, justification and excuse defenses, principles of adjudication, and judicial discretion. He warns that compromising the American criminal justice system to satisfy other interests can uncover the hidden costs incurred when a community's notions about justice are not reflected in its criminal laws.

Intuitions of Justice and the Utility of Desert shows that by ignoring the views of justice held by the communities they serve, legislators, policymakers, and judges undermine the relevance of the criminal justice system and reduce its strength and credibility, creating a gap between what justice a community needs and what justice a court or law prescribes.

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Editorial Reviews


"This remarkable book is the fruit of a two-decades-old project pioneered by Paul Robinson and his collaborators into the moral intuitions behind our criminal law. It reveals that our intuitions about who and what deserves to be punished, and how much, are remarkably precise and universally shared. He offers intriguing speculations as to why that might be so and shows that legislators who try to make up laws that go against those intuitions-as they habitually do in the name of populist or pragmatic considerations-wreak great havoc with our system."
--Leo Katz, Frank Carano Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School

"A defining work on the ideal distributive principles for punishment. It is undoubtedly one of the best books I have recently read. Its highly rational approach, with radical new thinking, is important for both legislators and criminal law researchers. This book will provide important insights to the changing landscape of modern criminal theory."
--Zhao Bingzhi, President and Professor, Chinese Criminal Law Society

"No criminal law theorist has done more than Paul Robinson to employ sophisticated techniques of social science to discover what laypersons think about the fairness of various rules and doctrines in the substantive criminal law. In extraordinarily readable prose, Robinson argues that efforts to ensure that our penal law conforms to the judgments of laypersons will help to produce a criminal law that is beneficial to us all."
--Doug Husak, Professor II, Department of Philosophy, Rutgers University

"The book draws upon several empirical studies, undertaken by Robinson and collaborators, into aspects of lay understanding, law intuitions and lay opinions. The result is a volume that raises challenging questions about the role of the public in criminal law doctrine and in sentencing principles, written with Robinson's characteristic clarity and persuasiveness."
--Andrew Ashworth, Vinerian Professor of English Law, University of Oxford

About the Author

Paul H. Robinson is the Colin S. Diver Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a leading expert on criminal law. Professor Robinson holds law degrees from U.C.L.A., Harvard, and Cambridge. He has served as a federal prosecutor, as counsel for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Law, and as one of the original commissioners of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. He is an editor of Criminal Law Conversations (Oxford 2009), and author of Distributive Principles of Criminal Law: Who Should Be Punished How Much? (Oxford 2008) and Law Without Justice: Why Criminal Law Doesn't Give People What They Deserve (Oxford 2005).

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