Ferzan’s Co-Edited Book Ponders Contemporary Issues in Criminal Law

Ferzan, Hellman Among Contributors to Latest ‘Palgrave Handbook’
Kimberly Kessler Ferzan and “The Palgrave Handbook of Applied Ethics and the Criminal Law”

UVA Law Professor Kimberly Kessler Ferzan, an expert in criminal law theory, said she and co-editor Larry Alexander, a University of San Diego law professor and her frequent collaborator, sought to do something a little different with their new book.

February 26, 2020

A new book co-edited by Professor Kimberly Kessler Ferzan of the University of Virginia School of Law examines contemporary issues in criminal law — on such topics as fraud, blackmail and revenge pornography — and their theoretical underpinnings.

“The Palgrave Handbook of Applied Ethics and the Criminal Law” was published by Palgrave MacMillan in December.

Ferzan, an expert in criminal law theory, said she and co-editor Larry Alexander, a University of San Diego law professor and her frequent collaborator, sought to do something a little different with the collection.

“Most handbooks are basically reference materials,” Ferzan said. “They are a leading light covering a topic within that scholar’s expertise. Our handbook departs from this model. We let our authors have free rein to offer their own views on the topic and not just a scholarly summary.”

Ferzan said the book features established scholars as well as up-and-coming stars in criminal law. The editors encouraged scholars to work outside their comfort zones.

“Mary Anne Franks of the University of Miami School of Law is the leading expert in nonconsensual pornography, or revenge porn, but we also have a chapter on proof beyond a reasonable doubt by Yale’s Gideon Yaffe, who, although he’s written books on criminal attempts and on juvenile punishment, hasn’t created a large body of work in burdens of proof,” Ferzan said. “We let our authors choose between well-traveled and unknown territory.”

The book also includes a chapter on bribery from UVA Law professor Deborah Hellman, based on a paper that won the American Philosophical Association’s 2019 Fred Berger Memorial Prize.

“Debbie has a particular view of what makes something a bribe, and so her chapter does not simply give her position as one view among many, but situates the other views and argues for hers,” Ferzan said.

Ferzan herself writes about “stand your ground” laws, which involve the controversial right of a gun owner to use force if he or she feels threatened, regardless of the ability to retreat from danger.

“Ultimately, I argue that what the defender is doing is acting as the state, as police officers are always entitled to stand their ground,” she said.

She added, “We may give the state too much power to stand its ground.”

Ferzan is the co-editor-in-chief of Law and Philosophy, and is also on the editorial boards of Legal Theory, and Criminal Law and Philosophy. She was recently appointed to be one of the editors for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for philosophy of law entries. She is the author of numerous articles, and the co-author of “Crime and Culpability: A Theory of Criminal Law,” with Alexander and Stephen Morse. In 2018, she and Alexander built on that seminal book with the publication of “Reflections on Crime and Culpability: Problems and Puzzles.”

As a compilation of thoughts on some of today’s most interesting ethical questions, Ferzan said, she couldn’t be happier with the book for Palgrave, which she said will be relevant to a variety of students.

“If a law or philosophy student wants to understand what the arguments are for something like cruelty to animals, they have a ready reference,” Ferzan said. “And there is a ton of variation for upper-level seminars. Traditional questions like insanity and accomplice liability are intermingled with addiction and neuroscience. And questions of political philosophy are covered as well, including systemic questions with respect to race and gender.”

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