Pro­fessor cre­ates hybrid, blending crim­inal law and law of torts

Pro­fessor Thomas H. Koenig, Chair of the Depart­ment of Soci­ology and Anthro­pology and a founding member of Northeastern’s Law, Policy and Society Ph.D. pro­gram was the lead speaker at a recent con­fer­ence at Wei­dner Law School that focused on his con­cept of “crim­torts.” The term “crim­torts” was coined by Koenig and Michael Rustad, a pro­fessor at Suf­folk Uni­ver­sity Law School, to describe a doc­trinal approach that blends the prin­ci­ples of crim­inal law and the law of torts. Koenig’s article, enti­tled, “Crim­torts: A Cure for Hard­ening of the Cat­e­gories,” will appear in the Wei­dner Law Journal’s July 2008 issue.

Koenig’s article argues that the twenty-​​first cen­tury requires ground­breaking legal solu­tions to help solve the growing prob­lems of glob­al­ized supply chains, inter­na­tional human rights vio­la­tions, online oppres­sion, envi­ron­mental degra­da­tion and neg­li­gent enable­ment of third party crimes. Lack of legal evo­lu­tion has led to a con­sid­er­able build-​​up of gaps in the law, or legal lag, and puni­tive dam­ages have become increas­ingly sig­nif­i­cant in the legal system as a way to fill these gaps. In his paper, Koenig uses the recent Black­water USA lit­i­ga­tion and the Chi­nese import safety crisis to illus­trate the crimtort’s utility as a flex­ible response to social prob­lems that threaten society but cannot be addressed on the crim­inal side of the ledger.

Koenig explores the dif­fer­ence between the man­i­fest and latent func­tions of crim­torts as civil pun­ish­ment, drawing upon the work of classic soci­o­log­ical theorists.

Civil actions simul­ta­ne­ously ful­fill the pri­vate func­tion of remu­ner­ating injured claimants while serving the broader public pur­pose of con­trol­ling socially harmful behavior,” said Koenig. “The man­i­fest func­tions of crim­torts are pun­ish­ment and deter­rence, but crim­tort reme­dies also arm ordi­nary cit­i­zens with the power to return society to equi­lib­rium through the deter­rent power of puni­tive damages.”

Koenig con­cludes that crim­torts, or their func­tional equiv­a­lent, are urgently needed in the new mil­len­nium because the crim­inal law, by its very nature, lags behind the other social institutions.

For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact Samantha Fodrowski at 617–373-5427 or at s.​fodrowski@​neu.​edu.

About North­eastern

Founded in 1898, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is a pri­vate research uni­ver­sity located in the heart of Boston. North­eastern is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research, urban engage­ment, and the inte­gra­tion of class­room learning with real-​​world expe­ri­ence. The university’s dis­tinc­tive coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, where stu­dents alter­nate semes­ters of full-​​time study with semes­ters of paid work in fields rel­e­vant to their pro­fes­sional inter­ests and major, is one of the largest and most inno­v­a­tive in the world. The Uni­ver­sity offers a com­pre­hen­sive range of under­grad­uate and grad­uate pro­grams leading to degrees through the doc­torate in six under­grad­uate col­leges, eight grad­uate schools, and two part-​​time divi­sions. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.north​eastern​.edu.