Forgiveness, Law, and Justice

Forgiveness, Law, and Justice



Presented at the Brennan Center Jorde Symposium on October 20, 2014 (University of California, Berkeley) and January 8, 2015 (University of Chicago).

Should law encourage people to forgive one another””and should law be used to forgive people for wrongdoing? Or is it a mistake to promote greater connections between law, with its need for predictability, and forgiveness, with its dependence on emotions and moral judgments?

Before exploring these questions, I will discuss what I mean by forgiveness in Part I. Then, in Part II, I will turn to the possible roles law can play in relation to forgiveness in the contexts of criminal law””international and domestic””and debt, both of sovereign nations and consumers. When I first turned to some of these issues, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was just getting started. In the twenty years since, and in no small measure because of the TRC effort, forgiveness has attracted global attention and debate in law, psychology, and politics well beyond its traditional home in religious and philosophical discussions. So I will also consider in Part II what we have learned from the TRC about the promises and limitations of joining forgiveness and law””both for law and for forgiveness. In Part III, I will raise some questions about the inquiry myself. Finally, in Part IV, I will provide closing thoughts and suggestions for incorporating forgiveness into existing domestic and international legal frameworks. Finding room for forgiveness through law or alongside law can draw upon a non-depletable resource, thereby enhancing human relationships without forgoing the accountability so important to social order.

PDF

More in this Issue

The Difficulties of Democratic Mercy

In response to Dean Martha Minow’s 2014 Brennan Center Jorde Symposium Lecture, Forgiveness, Law, and Justice, 103 Calif. L. Rev. 1615 (2015), available here. Dean Martha Minow’s wide-ranging and learned Jorde lecture Forgiveness, Law, and Justice is characteristic in its unstinting ambition. The lecture does not merely sweep in complex normative and empirical questions concerning […]

Seeking Emotional Ends with Legal Means

In response to Dean Martha Minow’s 2014 Brennan Center Jorde Symposium Lecture, Forgiveness, Law, and Justice, 103 Calif. L. Rev. 1615 (2015), available here. Can we use legal institutions to cultivate forgiveness after mass violence, genocide, or pervasive group-based injustice? This is the question Dean Martha Minow asks in her provocative and pathbreaking Jorde Lecture. […]

Forgiveness, Forgetting, and Resentment

In response to Dean Martha Minow’s 2014 Brennan Center Jorde Symposium Lecture, Forgiveness, Law, and Justice, 103 Calif. L. Rev. 1615 (2015), available here. First, I will draw some distinctions within the dimension of forgiveness, mapping in somewhat more detail the terrain Dean Minow has sketched for us. These distinctions are between what I will […]

Student Debt and Higher Education Risk

To borrow for college is to take a risk. Indebted students may not earn enough to repay their loans after they graduate or, worse, may fail to graduate at all. For students who cannot pay for college without borrowing, this risk is both a disincentive and a penalty. Greater risk undermines the efficacy of federal […]

The Fair Market Value of Public Resources

Government agencies and officials are regularly criticized for selling public assets at a loss. Such criticisms arise in a host of contexts, ranging from sales of real estate and natural resources to sales involving intangibles, such as the right to broadcast over the airwaves or to operate a toll road or a set of parking […]

Naturalizing Immigration Imprisonment

Only recently has imprisonment become a central feature of both civil and criminal immigration law enforcement. Apart from harms to individuals and communities arising from other types of immigration enforcement, such as removal, imprisonment comes with its own severe consequences, and yet it is relatively ignored. This Article is the first to define a new […]