Advertisement

Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 1–18 | Cite as

The Duty to Disregard the Law

  • Michael Huemer
Original Paper

Abstract

In the practice of jury nullification, a jury votes to acquit a defendant in disregard of the factual evidence, on the grounds that a conviction would result in injustice, either because the law itself is unjust or because its application in the particular case would be unjust. Though the practice is widely condemned by courts, the arguments against jury nullification are surprisingly weak. I argue that, pursuant to the general ethical duty to avoid causing unjust harms to others, jurors are often morally obligated to disregard the law.

Keywords

Jury nullification Juries Political obligation 

References

  1. ABC News. 2010. “Feds’ Conviction Rate Bad Sign for Blago,” August 4, http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=7593302. Accessed October 3, 2012.
  2. Adams, John. [1856] 1971. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States. New York: AMS Press.Google Scholar
  3. Allen, Ronald J. and Larry Laudan. 2008. “Deadly Dilemmas,” Texas Tech Law Review 41: 65–92.Google Scholar
  4. Arnold, Thurman. 1945. Opinion in Holloway v. United States, 148 F.2d 665.Google Scholar
  5. Babcock, Barbara. 2013. “‘Defending the Guilty’ after 30 Years,” pp. 1–13 in Abbe Smith and Monroe H. Freedman, eds., How Can You Represent Those People? New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  6. Bazelon, David L. 1972. Dissenting opinion in United States v. Dougherty, 473 F.2d 1113.Google Scholar
  7. Biskupic, Joan. 1999. “In Jury Rooms, Form of Civil Protest Grows,” Washington Post, February 8, p. A1. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/jury080299.htm, accessed April 5, 2012.
  8. Bissell, John W. 1997. “Comments on Jury Nullification,” Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy 7: 51–56.Google Scholar
  9. Bork, Robert H. 1999. “Thomas More for Our Season,” First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion & Public Life 94: 17–21.Google Scholar
  10. Brooks, Thom. 2004. “A Defence of Jury Nullification,” Res Publica 10: 401–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Butler, Paul. 2004. “In Defense of Jury Nullification,” Litigation 31: 46–49, 69.Google Scholar
  12. Cabranes, Jose A. 1997. Opinion in United States v. Thomas, 116 F.3d 606.Google Scholar
  13. Christiano, Thomas. 2008. The Constitution of Equality: Democratic Authority and Its Limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chwang, Eric. 2011. “On Coerced Promises,” pp. 156–182 in Promises and Agreements: Philosophical Essays, ed. Hanoch Sheinman. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Crispo, Lawrence W., Jill M. Slansky, and Geanene M. Yriarte. 1997. “Jury Nullification: Law versus Anarchy,” Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 31: 1–61.Google Scholar
  16. Dye, Thomas R. and L. Harmon Zeigler. 1984. The Irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics, sixth edition. Monterey, Calif.: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  17. Estlund, David. 2008. Democratic Authority: A Philosophical Framework. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  18. George, Ronald M. 2001. Opinion in People v. Williams, 106 Cal.Rptr.2d 295.Google Scholar
  19. Greenawalt, Kent. 1987. Conflicts of Law and Morality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hardimon, Michael O. 1994. “Role Obligations,” Journal of Philosophy 91: 333–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Huemer, Michael. 2009. “America’s Unjust Drug War,” pp. 223–236 in The Right Thing to Do, fifth edition, ed. James and Stuart Rachels. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  22. Huemer, Michael. 2013. The Problem of Political Authority. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Husak, Douglas. 1990. “‘Already Punished Enough,’” Philosophical Topics 18: 79–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Husak, Douglas. 2002. Legalize This! The Case for Decriminalizing Drugs. London: Verso, 2002.Google Scholar
  25. Husak, Douglas. 2008. Overcriminalization: The Limits of the Criminal Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Klosko, George. 2005. Political Obligations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Leipold, Andrew D. 1996. “Rethinking Jury Nullification,” Virginia Law Review 82: 253–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leventhal, Harold. 1972. Majority opinion in United States v. Dougherty, 473 F.2d 1113.Google Scholar
  29. Linder, Douglas. 2001. “The Trial of John Peter Zenger: An Account,” http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/zenger/zengeraccount.html, accessed April 5, 2012.
  30. Matravers, Matt. 2004. “‘More Than Just Illogical’: Truth and Jury Nullification,” pp. 71–83 in The Trial on Trial, vol. 1: Truth and Due Process, ed. Antony Duff, Lindsay Farmer, Sandra Marshall, and Victor Tadros. Oxford: Hart Publishing.Google Scholar
  31. McCloskey, H. J. 1957. “An Examination of Restricted Utilitarianism,” Philosophical Review 66: 466–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McCloskey, H. J. 1963. “A Note on Utilitarian Punishment,” Mind 72: 599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Markel, Dan. 2012. “Retributive Justice and the Demands of Democratic Citizenship,” Virginia Journal of Criminal Law 1: 1–133.Google Scholar
  34. Milgram, Stanley. 2009. Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  35. Ostrowski, James. 2001. “The Rise and Fall of Jury Nullification,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 15: 89–115.Google Scholar
  36. Pollingreport.com. 2011. “Illegal Drugs,” poll results reported at http://www.pollingreport.com/drugs.htm, accessed April 7, 2012.
  37. Ramseyer, J. Mark, Eric Rasmusen, and Manu Raghav. 2008. “Convictions versus Conviction Rates: The Prosecutor’s Choice,” Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 611, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1108813. Accessed October 3, 2012.
  38. Rawls, John. 1999. A Theory of Justice, revised edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Ross, W.D. 1988. The Right and the Good. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett. Originally published 1930.Google Scholar
  40. Simmons, A. John. 1979. Moral Principles and Political Obligation. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Sobeloff, Simon E. 1969. Opinion in United States v. Moylan, 417 F.2d 1002.Google Scholar
  42. Steigmann, Robert J. 1998. Concurring opinion in People v. Smith, 296 Ill. Ap. 3d 435.Google Scholar
  43. Story, Joseph. 1835. Opinion in United States v. Battiste, 24 F.Cas. 1042.Google Scholar
  44. U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2010. “Offenses Cleared” in “Crime in the United States 2009,” http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/offenses/clearances/index.html, accessed April 12, 2011.
  45. Volokh, Alexander. 1997. “n Guilty Men,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 146: 173–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zenger, John Peter. 1736. A Brief Narrative of the Case and Trial of John Peter Zenger. Available at http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/zenger/zengerrecord.html, accessed April 5, 2012.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Department CB 232University of ColoradoBoulderUSA

Personalised recommendations