Sacramento City College

Philosophy 23 

Law, Justice & Punishment

Spring 2003
T T 9:20-10:35 am
Course Code 13530

Dr. Robert T. Carroll
Office: Auditorium 36F
Office Hours: MWF 11am-12pm; TT 12-1 pm.
Phone (916) 558-2505


Readings in the Philosophy of Law, 3nd ed., John Arthur & William H. Shaw (Prentice Hall, 1993); [ISBN 013027741X]. Recommended, but not required, is the Student Success Guide (SSG) by Robert T. Carroll. Part II of the SSG, Writing Skills, is especially recommended, since you will be doing quite a bit of writing for this class. Although there is no prerequisite, be advised that you should be eligible for English 1A and able to write at the college level to succeed in this class. Texts are available in the College Store and one copy of each will be on reserve in the College Library. The Arthur & Shaw text is also available on-line from (make sure you get the 3rd edition)

Course Description & Outline: (note: all page numbers refer to the Arthur & Shaw text.)

I. The course will begin with Liberty, Equality and Justice.

1. The Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment (p. 664-665).
2. John Stuart Mill: "On Liberty" (p. 575-586); excerpts from ch.1, ch 2 and ch. 4.
3. Peter Singer: Equality, Race and Gender (p. 622-636)
4. Cathryn Jo Rosen: The Battered Woman's Defense (p. 309-318); Gender Discrimination (case: Michael M. v. Sonoma County): (p. 653-655)
5. Equality vs. Free Speech (case: Harris v. Forklift Systems): (p. 655-658);
6. Free Speech: a. Schenck b. Whitney c. Texas flag burning d. Skokie e. Paris Adult Theatre & American Bookseller's (p. 586-601)

Key Concepts for Unit I:

  • tyranny of the majority
  • the harm principle of J. S. Mill
  • the clear and present danger test
  • the battered woman's defense
  • battered woman's syndrome
  • justifying reasons vs. excusing reasons
  • equal opportunity vs. equality of interests (P. Singer)
  • equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment
  • jury nullification
  • self-help
  • fighting words
  • prior restraints & the 1st Amendment
  • the Miller v. Calif. obscenity test

Themes for Unit I

  • Legal and Philosophical Limits of liberty and equality
  • Limits of state power to restrict liberty and equality
  • Justice when liberty and equality clash

II. Next, we will focus on Legal Reasoning, Justice and the Constitution.

1. C. Gordon Post "Stare Decisis: the Use of Precedent" (p. 81-90);
Blackstone "Rules of Interpretation" (pp. 90-91); Edward H. Levi "Statutory Interpretation" (p. 92-97); Cases of Interpretation - The Mann Act (p. 97-103); Riggs v. Palmer (p. 103-110).
3. William H. Rehnquist "The Notion of a Living Constitution (p. 520-526).
4. Ronald Dworkin "Constitutional Cases" (p. 526-535).
5. A Debate on the Exclusionary Rule (p. 350-362)
6. Kenneth Kipnis "Criminal Justice and the Negotiated Plea" (p. 378-385).

Key Concepts for Unit II

  • stare decisis (precedent)
  • statutes
  • common law (case law)
  • analogical reasoning
  • distinguishing vs. following precedent
  • judicial review
  • judicial restraint
  • judicial activism
  • exclusionary rule
  • plea bargaining
  • Dworkin's concepts of "political skepticism", "judicial deference", and concept vs. conception
  • interpreting vs. applying laws

Themes for Unit II

  • Problems with interpreting and applying statutes and the Constitution
  • The effect on justice of practices and theories of interpretation and application of statutes and the Constitution

III. Theories of Law, the Constitution & Just Punishment.

1. Lon Fuller "Eight Ways to Fail to Make Law" and "The Problem of the Grudge Informer" (p. 37-47).; H.L.A. Hart: Grudge Informers and the Rule of Law (p.47-49)
2. Positivism (Austin) (p. 117-124)
3. Realism (Frank) (p. 133-141)
4. Modern Positivism (Hart) a. separation of law and morals (p. 147-156); b. law as union of primary and secondary rules (156-170).
5. Critic of Modern Positivism (Dworkin) (p. 160-170)
6. Who should be punished? (pp. 241-242)
7. Richard Brandt "The Utilitarian Theory of Criminal Punishment" (p. 250-256);
8. Cruel & Unusual Punishment (case: Rummel v. Estelle) pp. 272-275.
9. Capital Punishment: Gregg v. Georgia (pp. 243-250).

Key Concepts for Unit III

  • natural law
  • legal positivism, classic and modern
  • legal realism
  • validity of law
  • the separation thesis
  • relation of law to morality
  • rules, policies and principles
  • difference between being obliged and being obligated
  • retributive theory of punishment
  • utilitarian theory of punishment
  • deterrence
  • rehabilitation
  • cruel and unusual punishment
  • capital punishment

Themes for Unit III

  • What makes a legal system and its laws valid?
  • What are the necessary conditions for a just system of punishment?
  • What constitutes a legal system?


Exams & Grading Policy:

There will be three exams of equal worth; an exam on each of the three areas described in the course outline. Each exam will consist of two parts of equal value: one part will test your knowledge and understanding of concepts of basic theories; the other will test your ability to relate issues and think critically about them. The former will involve giving short answers to questions such as the following: What is stare decisis? What is legal realism? Describe the basic features of the utilitarian and retributive theories of punishment? The latter will involve writing a topical essay, e.g., Interpreting the Constitution; Affirmative Action Programs and Justice; Pornography and the Law; The Death Penalty.

Each exam will be given a letter grade of A= Excellent; B = Good; C= Satisfactory; D= Unsatisfactory. Make up exams will be given only for good reasons such as illness or deaths in the family. The following do not constitute good reasons for missing an exam: I haven't had time to study; I'm not prepared; I've scheduled this vacation months ago; my car was broken into last night.

The third exam will be given during the final exam period.

The final exam is scheduled for Tuesday, May 27, 2002 from 10:40am-12:50 pm.

In addition to the exams, written assignments on the readings will be given. The written assignments will be worth 25% of your grade. The other 75% will be based on your exam grades.

Attendance and the quality of your participation in class discussions will also be considered and will be used to determine borderline grades.

Attendance Policy:

Attendance at all classes in expected. You may be absent twice the number of weekly scheduled classes without being dropped from the course. If you miss more than this number of classes, you may be dropped from the course. Attendance does not mean presence. Attendance means you have read the assignment and are prepared to think critically about the reading in an atmosphere of non-intimidation and genuine search for understanding.

Classroom Discussion

Complex philosophical and social issues are best approached by groups of people thinking critically about them. This requires discussion and debate in an open atmosphere. A certain amount of rudeness is inevitable in public debates in a democracy. Be prepared to offend and be offended. Rules for discussion should be kept to a minimum in order to encourage thoughtful dialogue, but here are a few: no name calling or 'fighting words'; avoid useless question-begging epithets in place of evidence and arguments (e.g., referring to ideas as 'liberal,' 'right-wing,' 'wacko,' 'fascist,' 'commonsense,' 'redneck,' etc.); stories are great to illustrate points but don't use anecdotes in place of evidence and arguments for generalizations about complex social issues (e.g., Welfare just encourages unwed mothers; I knew a woman once who had 18 children just so she could get more welfare); finally, causal claims regarding complex social issues aren't proved by correlations any more than by epithets or anecdotes.

A note for those who register late or drop a class: you are obligated to notify the Registrar, usually in person at one of the registration windows, of your adding or dropping a class. There are deadlines for adding or dropping. If you do not turn in an add card by the deadline you will not be allowed to add the class. If you do not turn in the drop card by the deadline, you may receive an 'F' for the class. The instructor's signature is not needed to drop any class, but is required to add any class that filled during registration.


Part I

1. John Stuart Mill p 585 Q 2 and Q 4.
2. Equality, Race, Gender p 635 Q 4
3. Battered Woman's Defense p. 317 Q 2 and Q 5
4. Gender Discrimination p. 655 Q 1; p. 657 Q3
5. Free Speech p 596 Q 4;
p. 601 Q 4

Part II

6. Stare Decisis p 90 Q 2
7. Blackstone p. 91 Q 3
8. Statutory Interpretation p 103 Q 6 and p 107 Q 4
9. Rehnquist: p. 525 Q 1 and Q 2
10. R. Dworkin: p. 535 Q. 2 and Q. 3
11. The exclusionary rule: p. 361 Q. 2
12. Plea bargaining: p. 385 Q. 4

Part III

13. Lon Fuller, Rex p. 42 Q 1; "The Grudge Informer": p. 47 Q 4
14. Jerome Frank, Legal Realism, p. 141 Q 4
15. H.L.A. Hart, Modern Positivism, p. 156 Q. 3
16. H.L.A. Hart, Modern Positivism, p. 160 Q. 1 and Q 3
17. R. Dworkin: p. 170 Q 4
18. Richard Brandt, theories of punishment, p. 256 Q 1
19. Rummel v. Estelle p. 275 Q 3
20. Gregg v. Georgia p. 250 Q1

Internet sites of interest:

Texts online


Supreme Court Justices

General Law, Liberty or Justice sites



Eyewitness Testimony & DNA

Insanity Defense

Capital Punishment

Philosophy Links

Philosophy Course Offerings Spring 2003
Philosophy 4 - Logic and Critical Reasoning
Philosophy 6 - Introduction to Philosophy
Philosophy 21H- History of Modern Philosophy (Honors)

Sacramento City College Philosophy Department Home Page
Sacramento City College Home Page
Academic Calendar

Final exam schedule for Spring 2003

last updated 01/06/03