George and Margaret Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law


Reality-Challenged Philosophies of Punishment

Thursday, October 6, 2011
12:15 p.m.
1 CLE credit applied for

Robert Weisberg
Edwin E. Huddleson, Jr. Professor of Law at Stanford

Perhaps the dominant contemporary concern in commentary on American criminal justice is mass incarceration. The theme of "American exceptionalism" has found perverse corroboration in the size of our prison population. At the same time, discourse about the "purposes of punishment" is thriving, with a recent revival of highly abstract theorizing about the nature and legitimacy of retribution. Yet these intellectual currents are tragically disconnected, because the modern philosophies of punishment fail to acknowledge any accountability for the empirical facts of American incarceration. In this lecture, Professor Weisberg will describe the disconnection and recommend ways of overcoming it, stressing that the abstract theorizing must be more sensitive to what punishment means and what effects it has in modern America.

ROBERT WEISBERG is the Edwin E. Huddleson, Jr. Professor of Law at Stanford University. He writes and teaches in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, white-collar crime, and sentencing policy. He is founder and faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, which promotes and coordinates research and public policy programs on criminal law and the criminal-justice system, including institutional examination of the police and correctional systems.

Professor Weisberg has been a consulting attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the California Appellate Project, working on death-penalty litigation in the state and federal courts. Professor Weisberg served as a law clerk to Justice Potter Stewart of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge J. Skelly Wright of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He received his J.D. in 1979 from Stanford University, where he served as president of the Stanford Law Review, and, previously, a Ph.D. in English from Harvard University. Professor Weisberg is a two-time winner of Stanford Law School's John Bingham Hurlbut Award for Excellence in Teaching.


  • Eckstein Hall
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  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233