CAMDEN —Rutgers School of Law–Camden scholar Kimberly Kessler Ferzan has been honored by the American Philosophical Association with its prestigious Berger Memorial Prize for her published article at the intersection of law and philosophy.
Ferzan’s article, “Beyond Crime and Commitment: Justifying Liberty Deprivations of the Dangerous and Responsible,” examines when and why it is permissible for the state to intervene to prevent someone from committing a crime. The article was published in the Minnesota Law Review.
Ferzan’s article responds to a theoretical gap in how the state prevents harm. She says many theorists have argued that although the state may confine irresponsible persons, such as the mentally ill, responsible but dangerous persons must be dealt with by the criminal law.
She says that this means the state cannot do anything until a potential offender commits an offense. What has resulted, according to many scholars, is a contortion of both civil commitment laws and criminal offenses to fill the gap.
Ferzan argues that the way to bridge the gap is through a theory of self-defense. Just as a person may defend himself against an aggressor who plans to harm him, the state is permitted to prevent the commission of an offense. She argues that in both cases the person is “liable to preventive interference.”
“Right now, our criminal law is being contorted so that we can stop people we fear,” Ferzan says. “My goal is to show that there is a different way to think about preventive justice. Shifting many acts that are currently improperly deemed to be criminal offenses to the preventive regime in which they belong will ultimately lead to more just interactions between citizen and state.”
The Berger Memorial Prize is awarded to an outstanding published article in philosophy of law by a member of the American Philosophical Association. It is named for Fred Berger, a University of California at Davis professor who passed away in 1986.
“I am incredibly excited and honored to win this award,” Ferzan says. “At the end of the day, this award is given in the name of a first class philosopher, and it is humbling to receive the award. Moreover, as someone who works at the intersection of law and philosophy, but lacks formal training in philosophy, I find it professionally rewarding to be recognized by the APA.”
The American Philosophical Association will discuss Ferzan’s paper during a special session at its Pacific Division annual meeting.
Ferzan is serving as a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton for the 2012-13 academic year. She is co-founder and co-director of the Rutgers Institute for Law and Philosophy and served as a Scholar-in-Residence at New York University School of Law’s Center for the Administration of Criminal Law.
A reviewer for a number of legal journals and publishing companies, Ferzan speaks nationally on issues related to criminal law and evidence. She is the co-author of Crime and Culpability: A Theory of Criminal Law (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Ferzan earned her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina and her juris doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
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Media Contact: Ed Moorhouse