Should the Victims' Rights Movement Have Influence Over Criminal Law Formulation and Adjudication?
The victims' rights movement has come into increasing influence in setting criminal justice policy. What can be said about where its influence should be heeded, and where it should not? With regard to substantive criminal law in particular, should the victims' rights movement have influence over its formulation and adjudication? The short answer, on which I'll elaborate below, is that it ought to have influence over criminal law formulation but not necessarily over criminal law adjudication. It ought to have influence over criminal law formulation because there is great benefit in formulations that track shared lay intuitions of justice, and the victims' rights movement is the dominant organization of lay persons involved in criminal justice reform. Victims' rights organizations ought to have limited influence over adjudication -- and individual victims ought to have no influence -- because an offender's liability and punishment ought to depend upon his blameworthiness (including, primarily, the seriousness of his offense) not on his good or bad luck as to the forgiving or vindictive nature of his victim.
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