Is Mercy Unjust?

A lecture by Linda Meyer, Professor of Law, Quinnipiac University

Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009
Large Conference Room, 10th Floor
73 Tremont Street

Mercy in legal contexts is often thought to be unjust on at least two grounds: 1) it treats like cases differently, and 2) it denies wrongdoers full responsibility (and full punishment) and is thereby demeaning and debasing.  Meyer takes on both of these arguments, teasing out and taking issue with their assumptions, and suggesting that mercy, even by public officials in sentencing, is not unjust after all.  Along the way she calls into question the ideas that a law of  rules is just, that punishment necessarily involves imposition of pain by authorities, and that being fully human (and fully responsible) depends upon being treated as "reasonable."

Linda Meyer came to Quinnipiac in 1994 from Vanderbilt Law School, where she taught for two years after clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at the U.S. Supreme Court.  Her publications are primarily in criminal law and legal theory.  Her book on the justice of mercy is forthcoming with the University of Michigan Press.  Recent publications include "The Merciful State," and "Miscarriages of Mercy?"  She teaches torts, criminal law, criminal procedure, jurisprudence, theories of punishment, wills and trusts, a Supreme Court seminar, animal law, and professional responsibility. 

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