Online Debate Among Legal Scholars Produces Book

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Media Contact:Jeanne Leong | jleong@upenn.edu | 215-573-8151August 20, 2009


PHILADELPHIA –- The legal-education book, “Criminal Law Conversations,” is now available after an innovative year-long cyberspace debate among the world’s leading criminal-law scholars about modern criminal law.

Through an interactive online approach to legal scholarship, hosted on the University of Pennsylvania Web site, authors of top-rated essays defended their ideas against criticism from other law professors. The essays they found most compelling were selected for inclusion in the book.

“Good scholarship is typically a slow and lonely process,” said Paul Robinson, Penn Law School professor and lead editor. “Many people seemed to relish the real-time quality of the ‘conversation’ process. The pace was just deliberate enough to promote very careful work but quick enough that there never seemed to be a dull moment.”

Topics such as preventative detention, the abolition of the insanity defense, criminal responsibility and the death penalty, are included in the book.

“One thing the project brought home to me was simply the range of ideas on which academics doing criminal law wanted to engage,” said co-editor Stephen Garvey of Cornell Law School.

“I view the publication as the beginning of the conversations we will have for decades to come,” said Kimberly Ferzan of Rutgers–Camden Law School and co-editor. “The book is the first word, not the final one.”

The publisher, Oxford University Press, is considering using this interactive approach for other books.

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