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Criminal Law Conversations

Leading Scholars Debate the Fundamental Questions of Modern Criminal Law


The current volume of the Criminal Law Conversations project is complete. It will be published by Oxford University Press in 2009. If you would like to be notified of the start of another volume, sign up for notifications.

  • Peer-engaged – community of scholars nominate works on which to comment
  • Short comments by those interested, with author response
  • All submissions through this website
  • Direct engagement allows debating scholars to "join issue"
  • Process allows thoughtful responses and efficient time management in writing

We invite criminal law scholars around the world to contribute to an exciting peer engaged project of criminal law "conversations" to be published collectively as a book. Each concise "core" text summarizing a theory or position, will be followed by a number of short (normally not to exceed 800 words) comments, with a final reply to the comments by the original core text author.

The goal of Criminal Law Conversations (CLC) is to promote thoughtful critiques of important issues. Too often opposing advocates talk past each other. CLC's web based virtual "conversations" are designed to help opponents join issue. The website is not a blog but rather a vehicle for nominating and organizing the project's topics and contributors.

Strong emphasis is placed on well written, accessible presentations. Texts with elaborate documentation or intricate analysis are not the goal. Our hope is to produce a final volume that will have an audience beyond the community of criminal law scholars and a collection that will remain of interest to readers for some time.

The selection of core texts will be made by the criminal law scholarly community at large, as people express interest in the topics on which they would like to comment. All scholars are invited to submit nominations for the subjects of a "core text" based on either previously published articles or new material. All are also invited to submit comments on any one or more of the nominated core texts.

Because not all contributions will be included in the published volume (although they may be permanently available on the CLC website), the process by which CLC is assembled, sketched below, is designed to shape a contributor's investment of time according to the likelihood of publication. An initial contribution may be simply a short note, with more demanding submissions required only after it appears that the core paper and its responses are developing into a collection likely to be included in the final published volume.

Through the process outlined below, the book collection will be assembled by late 2009. Oxford University Press has expressed an interest in publishing the volume. In addition, there will be a permanent CLC website that contains core texts and commentaries not included in the published volume. The permanent website will also allow the future submission of comments on the published volume’s contents, and may be used to produce subsequent collections.

A core text and its responses typically will go through four phases.

    Phase 1: Nomination


  1. Nomination.

    CLC invites nominations of a published article, a manuscript, or an idea memorandum that addresses an important issue of criminal law. The initial submission can be of any length, from a published article or book to a memorandum of a few pages. Feel free to nominate your own work or the work of others. The purpose of the initial nomination is only to identify for others the line of argument that would be made in the "core text" to be prepared. The initial nomination is NOT itself the core text. If others express an interest in commenting on the nominated work, the author will later prepare a concise statement of the main points of the nominated work (the “core text”) in no more than 5000 words.

  2. Expressions of Interest in Writing a Comment.

    CLC invites expressions of interest in writing a comment on any nominated piece. In final form, a comment may be no longer than 800 words, but at this stage the contributor need only indicate an interest in writing. No text need be submitted (although posting of draft comments or comment positions are welcomed).

  3. Phase 2: Drafts


  4. Posting Draft Core Text.

    At any point an author may post a draft of a "core text." Authors need not wait to be nominated by another person. The initial draft may be of any length, either a page sketching the author's position and arguments or a long article. (At some point the author will need to reduce his or her draft to about 3,500 words, with a maximum 5,000 words limit on core texts.)

  5. Posting Comment Notes.

    Contributors interested in commenting on a core text, whether they previously expressed an interest or not, are invited to post a draft of a comment of any length, even if it is just a few paragraphs sketching the kind of points they would make if they were to contribute a comment. (The final comment must be no more than 800 words.) While full draft comments are welcome, a commentator might well choose to only identify the kinds of arguments he or she might make, until the language of the core text is finalized.

  6. Phase 3: Finals


  7. Final Core Text.

    After it becomes clear that a sufficient number of contributors have shown themselves to have an array of points of comment, the author of the core text will post a final text of about 3,500 words but no longer than 5,000 words. A final core text cannot thereafter be changed before publication. (No "moving targets" for commentators.)

  8. Final Comments.

    After the final core text is posted, commentators will finalize their comments. Final comments normally are no longer than 800 words. While many writers will use the full allocation, the Editors also encourage quite brief comments, even as short as a few paragraphs, where a writer might address only one aspect of the core text.

  9. Phase 4: Final Replies


  10. Core-Text Author's Responses to Comments.

    The core text author will post a reply to the comments, the length of which will not to exceed a total of 225 words for each comment published, although the writer is free to allocate that space among the different comments as he or she sees fit.

  11. Commentator Response.

    In an unusual case, a commentator may be allowed to publish a brief response to a core text author's reply.

Please join us!

We think the resulting Criminal Law Conversations will be a great book and the process of making it will be great fun!  Please join us in the project.

-- The Editors, Paul H. Robinson, Kimberly Ferzan & Stephen Garvey