Course Opportunity for Undergraduates Interested in American Criminal Law

Applying to law school does not require a specific major or background in legal studies.  Law schools build a cohort of individuals with diverse experiences and academic backgrounds. 

However, if you are a current undergraduate at Penn and interested in American Criminal Law, feel free to research the following Fall 2022 course offering opportunity at Penn Carey Law School: 


LAW 794-001 with Professor Paul Robinson

Mondays and Tuesdays 10:30 AM – 11:50 AM

Criminal law’s rules, and its very conceptual foundations, have shifted significantly over the past several centuries and more. And those developments have played out differently in different parts of the United States. This course explores the nature of criminal law’s underlying principles, its development, as well as the resulting diversity of views and rules.

A full range of criminal law topics are covered – general principles of liability, general defenses, and specific offenses – with a special focus on those that illustrate the law’s and society’s shift in values. The readings for each topic include a summary of the governing law and its development, a review of the current state of the law in different U.S. jurisdictions, and an examination of the law in action using a pair of cases, one historic and one modern. The case studies involve famous events – such as the shootout at the OK Corral, Lincoln’s assassination, the Hatfield-McCoy feud, Vanderbilt’s market manipulation – and famous people – such as the Marquis de Sade, Oscar Wilde, Billy the Kid, Aaron Burr, Lewis Carroll, Mafia boss Joe Bananas, and entertainers Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ike and Tina Turner, and pornographer Larry Flynt.

The course is designed to promote an appreciation of the role that criminal law plays in a society’s development, to develop a student’s skills in doctrinal and theoretical analysis, and to familiarize students with a wide range of criminal law issues. The course does not overlap the law school’s introductory criminal law course but rather covers additional important issues such as the interrelation between shifting societal norms and changing criminal law rules, the interpretation and application of criminal law statutes, and the historical development of key criminal law rules and principles.

The course has no course prerequisites and is open to both law students and non-law students. The coursebook is the newly published American Criminal Law: Its Principles, People & Evolution and Application (Routledge 2022). Optional background readings are available in Robinson & Cahill, Criminal Law, 2nd Edition (Wolters Kluwer 2012). The course has a take-home midterm and an in-class final examination. 

By Ariana Alexander
Ariana Alexander Associate Director, Graduate School Advising