CFP: Theorizing Criminal Law Reform

Submission deadline: May 15, 2016

Topic areas


Theorizing Criminal Law Reform

A conference organized by Rutgers Law School, the London School of Economics Department of Law, and the Rutgers Institute for Law and Philosophy
April 21-22, 2017
Rutgers Law School, Newark

The project

The last two decades have seen a significant outpouring of criminal law reform efforts throughout the English-speaking world and beyond – including in the U.S., England  and Wales, Scotland, Australia, the Balkans, Georgia, Germany, Norway, Poland, and Rwanda. Despite, or possibly because of, all this activity, there has been relatively little consideration of the underlying theoretical issues that such reform raises. And there has been even less dialogue among criminal law reformers across jurisdictions. This project will seek to fill these voids by bringing together some of the leading figures in contemporary criminal law reform, as well as younger scholars and law reformers, to participate in an international workshop on the subject.

The idea of “criminal law reform,” as we conceive of it, entails not just any change to the criminal law, but rather an intentional process of revising, reordering, and reformulating a substantial area of the criminal law in some systematic way. Our interest here is not in the particular reforms one might think worthy in, say, the law of homicide in Argentina or the insanity defense in Greece. Rather, we are interested in the possibility of identifying and analyzing the kinds of general principles that underlie, or should underlie, the process of criminal law (or criminal procedure) reform across jurisdictions and subject matters.

Among the issues that we hope to see addressed are the following:

• How should a given jurisdiction determine that reform is needed? What kinds of concerns – whether arising from perceived social problems, international obligations, regime change or political revolution, structural inconsistencies and formal defects in the law, or short-term political ends – constitute appropriate justifications for reform?

• What makes for successful (or unsuccessful) criminal law or procedure reform? What are the formal attributes of good criminal law reform? Is reform best achieved in a comprehensive code, or in a more piecemeal manner? What is the proper scope of a criminal code? How does the process of criminal law reform differ depending on the part of the criminal law being considered, whether general principles or particular offenses? How accessible should criminal codes be to the general public? How should criminal law reformers deal with gaps and redundancies? How important is comprehensiveness?

• Who should be engaged in the process of law reform? What kinds of pre-legislative bodies should be created to assess needs for reform and to propose reforms, and with what kind of remit? To what kind of scrutiny, by what kind of body, should proposed reforms be subjected? How should criminal law reform bodies be constituted? What relationship should they have to legislatures, courts, prosecutors, and other constituencies?

Different jurisdictions approach criminal law reform in different ways: Some use  government-appointed law reform bodies; others rely on private, self-appointed expert bodies. Some rely on a “civilian”-type approach to codification; others on a common law-inspired one. By drawing on the experience conference attendees might have had participating in, or observing, the process of criminal law reform in their own or other jurisdictions, we hope to be able to find what general lessons (if any) can be learned about the principles, methods, and problems of systematic criminal law  reform.

Participating in the conference will be a collection of leading authorities in criminal law reform and criminal law theory, some of whom will present papers, and others of whom will serve as commentators. Confirmed participants (so far) include Vera Bergelson, Roger Clark, Antony Duff, Lindsay Farmer, Pamela Ferguson, Stuart Green, Adil Haque, Jeremy Horder, Tatjana Hörnle, Douglas Husak, Jørn Jacobsen, Margo Kaplan, Karl Laird, Paul Robinson, Alec Walen, and Gideon Yaffe.

Submission of abstracts and papers

Our aim is to feature a total of twelve short papers of approximately 5,000 words each. Approximately half of these will come from invited participants. The other half will come from this Call for Papers.

Interested parties are invited to submit an abstract of approximately 500 words describing the paper they would like to write and have discussed at the conference, along with a CV. Abstracts and CVs are due by May 15, 2016, and should be sent, in Word or PDF format, to Ms. Mimi Moore ([email protected]).

Applicants will be advised by June 30, 2016 whether their abstract has been accepted.

Successful applicants will then have until February 15, 2017 to submit a full, original draft of approximately 5,000 words. We hope you will consider publishing your contribution in a book of journal symposium that would come out of the conference, though you would not be obligated to do so, and we will not decide what the next steps in the process should be until we have had a chance to confer with attendees and to work out how the project can best be developed.

Each draft will have a commentator assigned to it. Workshop attendees will be expected to read the drafts in advance.

We invite submissions from both younger and older scholars and law reformers from diverse backgrounds and with diverse perspectives on, and experience, in the field.


We have secured initial funding sufficient to pay hotel and other local costs for all  participants whose papers are selected. We hope that participants will be able to find their own funding for travel, but we will do what we can to help with the travel costs of those who cannot find funding themselves.

Stuart Green (Rutgers Law) – [email protected]
Alec Walen (Rutgers Law and Philosophy) -- [email protected]
Antony Duff (Stirling Philosophy) – [email protected]
Jeremy Horder (LSE Law) -- [email protected]

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)