Criminal Law Conversations
- Subject-Matter Scope
- Core Text Selection Process
- Inactive Core Texts
- Manuscript Style
- The Editing Process
- The Published Book
What subjects are included within the scope of the project?
The project will include all subjects related to substantive criminal law and punishment theory, both theory, doctrine, and practice. Matters of criminal procedure are not within its scope. Thus, sentencing issues that relate to procedure would be excluded while those relating to punishment theory would be included.
The project's focus on important or enduring ideas will limit the scope of submissions more than will specific subject matter. If the idea or line of argument will be of interest to readers a decade from now, then it is likely to come within the scope of the project. Interdisciplinary work is welcomed, as is comparative work, although purely descriptive work is not likely to be included because it is not likely to prompt much comment by others.
Can anyone nominate an article, write a core text, or write a commentary?
Submissions are limited to full time criminal law teachers or scholars. Students may co-author a core text or a comment with a professor. Scholars from any country are invited to submit, although all submissions must be in English.
What if the text I want to nominate is in a book?
Please scan the applicable pages or chapters into digital form and upload it. If you need assistance, we will be happy to help.
What if I want to nominate a work by an author who is no longer living?
Given the process, there must be someone to champion the core text ideas and to reply to the comments. We welcome a nominator to take on that role, or to nominate someone else would might be willing to do so.
I had planned to nominate an author on one side of a debate, but I see from the Status Table that someone else has nominated an author on the other side. Should I still make my nomination?
Yes, feel free to do so. It may be that people have a greater interest in responding to one side of a debate than the other. As the expressions of interest in commenting accumulate, it will become apparent which side will make the more stimulating core text. (Commentators should feel free to express an interest in commenting on both sides of the debate if they have no preference for one over the other.) Once commentators on one side or another have hit critical mass, the Editors, if necessary, will consolidate the texts as detailed below under "Core Text Selection Process."
On how many core texts may I express an interest in commenting?
You may express an interest in commenting on as many core texts as you like. Indeed, in judging how many you wish to express an interest in, you can assume that some will not move forward to the drafting stage and adjust accordingly your number of expressions of interest. If too many do happen to move forward, you can decide at that later date the ones in which you have the greatest interest.
What if two commentators make similar comments on the same core text?
Preference generally is given to the first commentator to post, all other things being equal. However, the Editors have a strong preference for well written, accessible comments that present ideas in a clear and engaging way.
Core Text Selection Process
How are core texts selected to go forward to the drafting stage?
You — the community of criminal law scholars — select the core texts that will go forward. When a core text nomination receives four or more expressions of interest among commentators, the Editors often will ask the core text author to begin drafting a core text.
Sometimes two core texts have been nominated on the same topic. If both attract expressions of interest, the Editors, in consultation with the authors and commentators, will often invite one author to submit a “super comment,” which is allotted more space than other comments and will appear as the first comment in the published volume. Other commentators may then choose to direct their comments to the core text, the super comment, or both.
Inactive Core Texts
What does it mean when a core text nomination goes “inactive”?
A core text nomination usually goes inactive if it has less than four commentators and a month has gone by with no expression of interest in commenting on it.
If I have an interest in an "inactive" nomination, should I express it?
Yes. A core text made inactive for lack of interest may be re-activated at any time by an expression of interest.
What are the deadlines for drafting core texts, comments, and replies?
The process of selection and drafting is a "rolling" one that moves at the rate the participants in the "conversation" drive it. However, it is our hope is that the expressions of interest that by which core texts are selected will be quite advanced before the summer, that core text drafts will be posted in May (June at the latest), that comments will be posted in June and July, and that replies will be posted in July and August, with the writing complete before classes begin in September. Nonetheless, we welcome core text nominations at any time.
Conversations not complete when the present volume goes to press may be deferred to a second volume planned for next year.
How should a core text differ from the original articles or chapters upon which it is based?
The core text should be a stand-alone presentation of the main points of argument, typically of 3,500 words, with a maximum of 5,000 words. Your core text may unite arguments from more than one source, and of course, to the extent that your views have changed, the core text should include only those views that you are now prepared to defend. The exact length will necessarily depend upon the breadth and complexity of the thesis being presented. The précis should extract from the original sources only those points that are essential to the thesis. Discussing arguments just to exclude them should be avoided. Readers already have your “fully armored” account in the original source. Footnoting should be very limited, giving simple citation to the source of one’s arguments and points only where necessary. Detailed documentation and textual footnotes should of course be avoided. The full presentation of one’s thesis has already appeared elsewhere; the purpose here is to produce a text that will stimulate conversation.
The text should be fully accessible, something that can be understood by all criminal law professors, whether or not they have training in specific areas, such as philosophy, economics, or behavioral sciences. Avoid technical terms or, if they cannot be avoided, define them. The project’s goal is to encourage cross-pollination among groups of criminal law scholars who too often talk just among themselves.
What style guidelines should authors follow in manuscript preparation for a core text?
Postings can be made in MS Word, WordPerfect, or PDF. Final drafts should be submitted in MS Word or WordPerfect.
Headings should be in initial caps and bold, and should follow this convention:
A. Left Hand Margin
1. Tabbed, Separate Line
(a) Tabbed. With the text following on the same line.
Footnotes should be at the bottom of the page and should conform to the Bluebook. The first footnote should use an asterisk, and should indicate the author’s institutional affiliation and citations of the original works from which the core text is derived. Pages should be numbered consecutively at bottom center.
What style guidelines should authors follow in manuscript preparation for a comment?
- The comment should be short, concise statement of the author's main points, of no more than 800 words (including footnotes).
- Include a title for your comment.
- Refer to the author of the core text by last name only.
- Avoid repeating the core-text author's argument.
- Do not use headings, and use footnotes only where absolutely necessary, e.g., for direct quotations.
- Avoid unnecessary paeans to the author.
- Don’t just agree with or expand upon the Core Text’s position. To promote a conversation, the commentator must give the Core Text author something to which to respond.
The Editing Process
What editing is done to a manuscript, and when?
When a contributor has posted what is believed to be a final or near final draft, he or she should advise the Editors at CLCeditors@law.upenn.edu, and send them a word processing copy if only a PDF copy is posted. The Editors will review the draft and suggests revisions, normally only those needed to bring the draft within the style and format of the project. When the exchanges between the Editors and the contributor are complete, the author should post the manuscript a final time and mark it for “Final Review.” This will prompt the system to have the author “sign” a publication agreement. The Editors will give it a final review and mark it as “Final,” which will trigger notification to relevant others in the conversation.
The Editors do not recommend that commentators post comments until the core text is marked “Final.”
After all comments in a conversation are complete, the Editors may do further editing, as needed, to synthesize the conversation as a whole, including a decision as to the order in which the comments will appear. Once this is done and all of comments are marked “Final,” the core text author will be signaled to post his or her reply.
The Published Book
How many comments will be published for each core text?
The Editors expect that typically between three and seven comments will appear in the published volume after each core text.
How many core texts will appear in the published volume?
At present, the Editors would estimate that the final book will contain twenty or more core texts. The exact number will depend upon the number and length of the comments, as well as the quality of the materials to choose from.
Who will publish the collection?
Oxford University Press has expressed an interest in publishing the resulting volume.
What if my core text or comment is not published in the final volume?
Publishable quality drafts not included in the final volume will be permanently posted on the Criminal Law Conversations webpage or included in a subsequent volume.