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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Markel on Retributive Justice and the Demands of Democratic Citizenship

Markel, Dan - Florida State University CoL Dan Markel (Florida State University College of Law) has posted Retributive Justice and the Demands of Democratic Citizenship (Virginia Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 1, 2012) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This article reveals and responds to the democracy deficit in certain retributivist approaches to criminal law. Democracy deficits arise when we insufficiently recognize the moral authority of liberal democracies to create new moral obligations for us as individuals. Specifically, I will argue, in contrast to the claims of some leading criminal law theorists, that conduct can be legitimately and justly criminalized even if the conduct is not morally wrongful prior to or independent of law. In other words, once we understand the basis for our presumptive political obligations within liberal democracies, a more capacious approach to establishing criminal laws can be tolerated from a political retributivist perspective.

If I'm correct, then here are some of the implications: we are morally obligated (in a pro tanto way) to (1) conform our conduct, in our capacities as nonofficials, not only to “good” mala in se criminal laws but also many mala prohibita laws, laws that I call permissibly dumb but not illiberal; (2) to render, in our capacities as nonofficials, reasonable assistance to law enforcement of the previous categories of laws; and (3) to enforce, in our capacities as officials, these categories of laws. While the implications of this "democratic fidelity" argument are extensive, there is no moral obligation to surrender one’s judgment entirely. Indeed, officials and nonofficials have no moral obligation toward laws that are illiberal or what I call "spectacularly dumb," regardless of their valid legal status.

Like democratic criminalization choices, democratic sentencing laws must also be scrutinized. To that end, I sketch two moral frameworks that should work in conjunction with each other and with the threshold criminalization question when deciding whether to enforce, conform to, or assist enforcement efforts of criminal laws within liberal democracies.

Comments on this draft are invited. The paper is an invited contribution to a new journal at UVa Law, which will also feature published responses from Josh Bowers, Mike Cahill, and Antony Duff and a subsequent reply from me.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2011/10/xxx-markel-on-retributive-justice-and-the-demands-of-democratic-citizenship.html

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