Penn Carey Law’s Paul H. Robinson’s book explores criminal law and societal values

The Colin S. Diver Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s new book is titled ‘American Criminal Law: Its People, Principles, and Evolution.’

Using as examples criminal charges against the famous—Frank Sinatra and Oscar Wilde—and the infamous—Hermann Göring and the Marquis de Sade—in “American Criminal Law: Its People, Principles, and Evolution,” Paul H. Robinson, Colin S. Diver Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, and co-author Sarah M. Robinson convey the unending evolution of law and societal values.

Paul Robinson.
“Criminal law earns its moral authority by publicly committing itself to doing justice above all else,” says Paul H. Robinson. (Image: Courtesy of Penn Carey Law)

“Criminal law is one of the most interesting perspectives on the human adventure,” the authors write. “It requires us to examine how we want people to act, what we will do when they act improperly, and how we decide what we can reasonably expect of people. And to do this, we must assess what makes a successful society, what citizen protections and obligations a society should enforce, as well as the principles of justice that the community shares.”

Robinson is one of the world’s leading criminal law scholars. A prolific writer and lecturer, he has published articles in virtually all of the top law reviews, lectured in more than 100 cities in 34 states and 27 countries, and had his writings appear in 15 languages.

The book’s authors maintain that the topics and case studies in “American Criminal Law” are “not meant to be comprehensive or representative but rather interesting and thought-provoking.”

“No generation can know for sure what is coming around the historical corner. I’m sure many centuries ago in Europe no one could have imagined a world in which blasphemy was not a crime. They could not see it coming,” Robinson says.

Robinson writes that “generations from now people will look back on our present society and roll their eyes—or scowl in disgust—at something we now criminalize that they have come to see as wholly acceptable or at something we fail to criminalize that they have come to see as highly condemnable.” He describes how current things that are criminalized now will be seen as acceptable in the future, or things that might be condemnable fail to be criminalized today.

“Will it turn out that a century from now future generations will see our failure to recognize the equality between human rights and animal rights to be barbaric? There has never been a generation in human history that ‘got it right’—and there never will be because human society continues to evolve.”

Read more at Penn Carey Law.