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Course Details

American Criminal Law (Robinson)

Fall 2022   LAW 794-001  

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Paul H. Robinson

Colin S. Diver Professor of Law

Additional Information

Skills Training

15% Participation,
85% Exam,
Other (The examination grade is based upon a time-limited take-home midterm exam and time-limited in-person final exam, both during the semester.)

Short Answer,
In Class,
Closed-Book (Both the midterm and the final exam are time-limited take-home exams completed during the term. Students may only consult the Model Penal Code pamphlet provided.)

Satisfies Senior Writing Requirement



Class meets in person.

Course Continuity
Students are encouraged to stay home if you are ill or experience flu-like symptoms. If you miss a class for any reason, it is still your responsibility to make up the work missed.

I offer the following to students who miss class due to illness:

- Class sessions are regularly recorded. I will make these recordings routinely available on the course site to everyone in the class.

Meeting Times/Location
MT 10:30AM - 11:50AM
Golkin Hall 330



AMERICAN CRIMINAL LAW: ITS PRINCIPLES, PEOPLE & EVOLUTION Law 794-001 – Professor Robinson Mondays and Tuesdays 10:30 AM - 11:50 AM

Criminal law’s rules, and its very conceptual foundations, have shifted significantly over the past several centuries and more. And those developments have played out differently in different parts of the United States. This course explores the nature of criminal law’s underlying principles, its development, as well as the resulting diversity of views and rules. A full range of criminal law topics are covered – general principles of liability, general defenses, and specific offenses – with a special focus on those that illustrate the law’s and society’s shift in values. The readings for each topic include a summary of the governing law and its development, a review of the current state of the law in different U.S. jurisdictions, and an examination of the law in action using a pair of cases, one historic and one modern. The case studies involve famous events – such as the shootout at the OK Corral, Lincoln’s assassination, the Hatfield-McCoy feud, Vanderbilt’s market manipulation – and famous people – such as the Marquis de Sade, Oscar Wilde, Billy the Kid, Aaron Burr, Lewis Carroll, Mafia boss Joe Bananas, and entertainers Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ike and Tina Turner, and pornographer Larry Flynt. The course is designed to promote an appreciation of the role that criminal law plays in a society’s development, to develop a student’s skills in doctrinal and theoretical analysis, and to familiarize students with a wide range of criminal law issues. The course does not overlap the law school’s introductory criminal law course but rather covers additional important issues such as the interrelation between shifting societal norms and changing criminal law rules, the interpretation and application of criminal law statutes, and the historical development of key criminal law rules and principles. The course has no course prerequisites and is open to both law students and non-law students. The coursebook is the newly published American Criminal Law: Its Principles, People & Evolution and Application (Routledge 2022). Optional background readings are available in Robinson & Cahill, Criminal Law, 2nd Edition (Wolters Kluwer 2012). The course has a take-home midterm and an in-class final examination. For additional information, do not hesitate to contact Professor Robinson at phr@law.upenn.edu.

Course Concentrations

Criminal Law and Procedure Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of criminal law and procedure; Perform legal analysis in the context of criminal law and procedure; Communicate effectively on topics related to criminal law and procedure; Demonstrate an understanding of the role criminal law and procedure play in society and their impact on other areas of law and society.


"American Criminal Law: Its People, Principles & Evolution" by Paul H Robinson and Sarah M Robinson
Edition: first
Publisher: Routledge
ISBN: 9781032191

"Criminal Law, Second Edition" by Robinson and Cahill
Edition: Second edition, 2012
Publisher: Wolters Kluwer
ISBN: 9781454807315