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Somali Criminal Law Codification Initiative

Somalia’s tragic past of warlord conflict has left the country teetering on lawlessness. Yet there are reasons for long-term optimism. Past difficulties have not been the product of inter-religious or ethnic conflict, as is the case in much of the world. Most Somalis follow the Shafi’i legal school within Sunni Islam and are predominately ethnic Somalis.

In an effort to promote the rule of law and unify the country, the Government of Somalia and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) jointly commissioned the Criminal Law Research Group to draft a modern criminal code for Somalia that embodies fundamental Islamic principles. The proposed code developed by the Criminal Law Research Group in cooperation with the major Somali players of the criminal justice process is a modern and comprehensive penal code incorporating numerous cutting-edge innovations in drafting forms, code structure, and criminal law doctrine. It is also the first and only such code incorporating the major tenets and principles of Islamic law as currently practiced in Somalia. In drafting the code, the Criminal Law Research Group built upon its experience in drafting a Sharia-based criminal code for the Maldives that was commissioned by the United Nations Development Program and enacted last year.

The CLRG’s two-volume report to the Somali Working Group includes a proposed draft text, draft commentary, summary grading table, milestone grading table, as well as conversion tables from the current law sections to the draft code sections and vice versa.

Vol 1 and 2 Somali recodification [PDF]


Delaware Recodification Project

The Delaware General Assembly established the Criminal Justice Improvement Committee (CJIC) in 2014, and authorized it to suggest improvements to the State’s criminal justice system. The CJIC asked Professor Robinson and the CLRG to undertake a comprehensive review of Delaware’s substantive criminal law. The proposed criminal code and commentary are the result of this process.

Building on the foundation of Delaware’s criminal code of 1973 and drawing heavily on their domestic and international code drafting experience, Professor Robinson and the CLRG developed a modern and comprehensive criminal code for Delaware. The proposed code incorporates numerous cutting-edge innovations in drafting forms and code structure. It uses clear, accessible and consistent language; consolidates redundant, conflicting and verbose offenses; and offers a comprehensive, yet concise statement of all the rules governing criminal liability in Delaware. In addition, the proposed code preserves all (but only) reasonable policy decisions embodied in current law, and develops a rational and proportional grading system that recognizes all (but only) suitable distinctions between offenses.

The Delaware criminal code of 1973 was part of the “first wave” of American criminal law recodification efforts in the wake of the American Law Institute’s landmark Model Penal Code. While it represented a dramatic improvement over the law it replaced, its initial clarity and utility were greatly diminished by subsequent piecemeal legislation, as well as by the major shifts in societal norms that have occurred since its enactment four decades ago. The process of criminal code deterioration is not unique to Delaware and plagues other U.S. jurisdictions as well. The proposed code reverses this process by restoring Delaware criminal law’s functionality, and further modernizes it, enabling the law to keep abreast with twenty-first-century challenges and norms. Additionally, by illustrating how criminal law revitalization might be accomplished in Delaware, the proposed code may serve as a stimulus and a model for a “second wave” of American criminal law recodifications.

Report of the Delaware Criminal law Recodification Project [PDF]


Maldives Criminal Justice Project

The Republic of the Maldives is a small nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Made up of over 1,200 islands, the Maldives is home to approximately 300,000 people, with an additional 600,000 visitors each year. The country is officially Muslim, and the legal system has long been based on Islamic law.

Recently, pressure from political opposition groups and the international community has demanded political and legal reforms from the government. A sweeping reform agenda has been announced by President Gayoom, including efforts to reform and modernize the criminal justice system. The reform project, spearheaded by Attorney General Dr. Hassan Saeed and supported by the United Nations Development Programme, includes a comprehensive penal code, sentencing guidelines, rules of criminal procedure, and prosecutorial guidelines.


Maldivian Penal Code Project:

The Maldivian government placed a new penal code at the forefront of its priorities in their criminal justice reform effort. The proposed code developed by the CLRG is a modern and comprehensive penal code incorporating numerous cutting-edge innovations in drafting forms, code structure, and criminal law doctrine. It is also the first and only such code incorporating the major tenets and principles of Islamic law as currently practiced in the Maldives.

Final Report of the Maldivian Penal Law & Sentencing Codification Project: Text of Draft Code (Volume 1) and Official Commentary (Volume 2)

Unofficial Translation of What UNDP Reports to Be the New Maldivian Penal Code

Penal code drafted by Prof. Paul Robinson and students is enacted in the Maldives


Sentencing Guidelines:

In tandem with the proposed new penal code, the CLRG developed a revolutionary new sentencing guidelines system for the Maldives. The first of its kind, the proposed Maldivian sentencing guidelines will be seamlessly integrated into the penal code. The influence of Islamic law is also evident in the sentencing guidelines.


Rules of Criminal Procedure:

As a corollary to the penal code and sentencing guidelines, the CLRG is working to create a collection of rules of criminal procedure. These rules will govern the operation of the penal code and sentencing guidelines once they are put into operation. The focus of this rules-drafting project is the development of a system that will insure fairness of process and fidelity to the intent of the penal code.


Prosecution Guidelines:

Guidelines governing the exercise of prosecutorial discretion are also under construction for promulgation by the Attorney General. The guidelines will serve as a manual for Maldivian prosecutors throughout the prosecution process from arrest and arraignment through sentencing, an important tool considering the sweeping changes being planned to the criminal justice system of the Maldives.


Legal Interdiction of Foreign Terrorist Fighters

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Criminal Law Research Group (CLRG) undertook a research project in collaboration with the U.S. Military’s Special Operations Command-Pacific (SOCPAC) to identify aspects of foreign domestic criminal law that can be used to facilitate the prosecution and detention of foreign terrorist fighters. SOCPAC is responsible for the conduct of military special operations in an area covering 52% of the globe, 36 countries, 16 time zones, and 1,000 languages.

The project examines the domestic criminal law of a variety of countries from which foreign terrorist fighters originate or countries that they transit while traveling to Islamic State. The legal analysis goes beyond offenses traditionally related to terrorism, to include all criminal laws within the country that may be violated by conduct that intelligence agencies have found that foreign terrorist fighters sometimes engage in. The research is designed to give a variety of governmental agencies a means of helping local prosecutors bring effective prosecutions that will detain the FTFs. The U.S. State Department, the US Department of Justice, including the FBI, and other governmental agencies have liaisons to the project.

News release regarding the FTF interdiction project.

[The memoranda produced by CLRG during this project will not be publicly available unless and until SOCPAC approves their release.]


Irish Criminal Law Codification Project

The Criminal Law Codification Advisory Committee, created by Part 14 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006; oversaw the process of codifying the criminal law.

Following enactment of a criminal code, the Committee will also oversee any further maintenance of the code so as to preserve its internal logic and structure in the course of the ordinary program of criminal law reform and amendment.

Professor Finbarr McAuley, of University College, Dublin and Law Reform Commissioner, is the leading academic criminal lawyer in the country and chaired the Committee. The Advisory Committee was established after an Expert Group in January 2003 considered the possible approaches to codification and advised on the scope and extent of such approaches. The Group, chaired by Professor McAuley, included criminal law representatives from the State apparatus, practice, and legal academia.

Research Support Unit at UCD:

The Research Support Unit is located in the School of Law in University College, Dublin. This Unit undertakes the research tasks assigned to it by the Advisory Committee and it will become in the longer term, a centre of excellence for the codification process. It received core funding from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to assist it with the project over its anticipated lifetime, estimated to be from 5 to 10 years.


Departmental Secretariat:

In order to ensure the most effective linkage between the Government’s on-going program of criminal law reform and the codification process itself, a permanent Secretariat of six staff drawn from the staff of the Department was established, working under the direction of Ms. Valerie Fallon, Principal Officer. This ensures a symbiotic relationship between the ongoing program of criminal law reform and the codification process.


First Phase:

During the First Phase of the codification work, the Advisory Committee concentrated its efforts on drafting provisions that replaced four recent “mini-codes” enacted into law:

Criminal Damage Act, 1991

Criminal Justice Public Order Act, 1994

Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997

Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001

Client Link: Irish Criminal Law Codification Project


Pennsylvania Criminal Code Grading Study

The Pennsylvania Legislature’s Senate Judiciary Committee and House Judiciary Committee jointly commissioned the Criminal Law Research Group to undertake a study of the criminal offense grading scheme contained in Pennsylvania criminal statutes.

The CLRG prepared an analysis and report, presented its findings to a joint session of the two Committees on December 15, 2009. The report examines the extent to which current code provisions define offenses with offense grades that are inconsistent with the relative seriousness of the offense as compared to other offenses, as measured by a survey of Pennsylvania residents. It also examines whether some offenses include within a single grade conduct of very different degrees of seriousness, for which different offense grades should be assigned. Several other sorts of grading problems are examined and illustrated. Finally, after explaining why proper grading judgments are important, the report discusses how the problems described came about, how they might be fixed, and how such problems might be avoided in the future.

Report on Offense Grading in Pennsylvania(report text and notes, 30 pages)

Grading Report Appendices A-E (further examples, 27 pages)

Grading Report Appendices F-H(methodology details, results, all-offense table, 120 pages)

News Release


Penn’s Criminal Law Research Group at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg

Tom Gaeta, Matthew Majarian, Phontip Tanompongphandh, Professor Paul Robinson, Douglas Weck and Megan Schultz. Not pictured are Henry Klein and Katherine Zlock.


NJ Criminal Code Grading Study

The University of Pennsylvania Criminal Law Research Group was commissioned to do a study of offense grading in New Jersey.

After an examination of New Jersey criminal law and a survey of New Jersey residents, the CLRG issued this Final Report (PDF). (For the report of a similar project for Pennsylvania, see Report on Offense Grading in Pennsylvania, and for an article about the grading project, see The Modern Irrationalities of American Criminal Codes: An Empirical Study of Offense Grading, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (forthcoming 2011).)

The New Jersey study found serious conflicts between the relative grading judgments of New Jersey residents and those contained in existing New Jersey criminal law, as well as instances where mandatory minimum sentences often require sentences that exceed the maximum appropriate punishment, inconsistencies among the grading of similar offenses, overly broad offenses that impose similar grades on conduct of importantly different seriousness, and a flawed grading structure that provides too few grading categories, thereby assuring pervasive problems in failing to distinguish conduct of importantly different seriousness.

These systemic failures risk undermining the criminal justice system’s moral credibility with the community, improperly delegate the value judgments inherent in grading decisions to individual sentencing judges ad hoc, fail to give citizens notice of the relative importance of conflicting duties, and invite application of different sentencing rules to similarly situated offenders. The Report examines how these grading problems came about, how they might be fixed, and how such grading irrationalities might be avoided in the future.


American Criminal Code Project: General Defenses

There are fifty-two different bodies of criminal law at work in the United States, as diverse as they are many. Each one stakes out seemingly innumerable positions on a range of highly contested issues. So, how is one to know what the “American rule” is on any given matter of criminal law? This CLRG project takes the first step towards answering this question by presenting the first installment of the “American Criminal Code.”

The project undertook an exhaustive review of every contested issue relating to the general defenses to criminal liability, including all justification, excuse, and non-exculpatory defenses. With this foundation, it determined the majority American position among the fifty-two jurisdictions, and formulated statutory language for each defense that reflects the majority American rule in all respects. The project also compares and contrasts the majority position on each issue to all significant minority positions, the Model Penal Code, and the National Commission’s proposed code.

Finally, using the results of these analyses, the project compares patterns among the states for issues within the most controversial justification defense, the Defense of Persons, to a wide range of other variables—such as state population, racial characteristics, violent crime rates, and gun ownership—and highlights many interesting correlations. While applying this kind of doctrinal correlation analysis to all of the project’s existing data would be a major undertaking many times larger than the present project, the present work illustrates how such analysis can be done, and how interesting the revealed patterns can be.

An article resulting from the project is being published by the peer-reviewed Journal of Legal Analysis, forthcoming 2015.

ACC Project: For Project Members


Tag Reference List

Category Reference List


Database Reports:

D1 Necessity - Lesser Evils
D2 Defense of Person
D3 Defense of Property
D4 Spec Responsibility Authority
D5 Military Orders
D6 Law Enforcement Authority
D7 General Public Duty
D9 Mistake as to Justification
E1 Insanity
E2 Mental ill negating element
E3 Immaturity
E4 Involuntary Intoxication
E5 Duress Defense
E7 Involuntary Act & Omission
E9 Mistake - General Defense
F1 Statutes of Limitation
F5 Double Jeopardy Defenses
F6 Immunity Defenses
F9 Entrapment
O Arson: Criminal, Mischief and Other
Q Robbery
R Theft and Related Offenses.html
T Offenses Against the Family
W Obstructing Governmental Operations
X Abuse of Office.html
Z Public Indecency Privacy Offenses





Kansas Criminal Law Codification Project

The Kansas legislature has appointed a commission to revise the state’s criminal code.

Prof. Robinson and the CLRG are helping in the work. Drawing heavily on the innovations developed during other recent penal code drafting projects (e.g. Illinois, Kentucky, Maldives), the CLRG proposal for a new Kansas criminal code will seek to create a modern comprehensive code incorporating the latest in drafting forms, code structure, and criminal law doctrine.