Widener Law presents first national conference on Crimtorts
Public Relations - Published: February 12, 2008
Widener University School of Law will present the first national conference to focus on “Crimtorts,” the expanding middle ground between criminal and tort law.

columns crimtortsThe event, on Monday, Feb. 25 in room A-180 of the administration building on the law school’s Harrisburg campus, will explore the novel idea of crimtorts, a word coined by Professors Thomas H. Koenig and Michael L. Rustad. It represents the blurring line between tort law and the criminal law principles of punishment and deterrence.

Those championing a crimtorts approach frequently view it as a means of social control against powerful entities, such as large corporations. For example, the favored crimtorts remedy is punitive damages, based on punishment and deterrence, yet used against defendants in civil cases. Crimtort penalties are something giant companies have come to fear, Koenig and Rustad have written, as the size of a financial penalty can be directly tied to a wrongdoer’s wealth. Crimtorts are distinct, they have said, because through them private people contribute to society’s goal of protecting the public interest – all while receiving compensation for their own personal injury or loss.

A host of eminent legal academics will make presentations during the day. The conference will begin with a panel discussion at 8:45 a.m. that introduces the crimtorts concept, featuring:
  • Koenig, Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Northeastern University.
  • Rustad, the Thomas F. Lambert Jr. Professor of Law and Co-Director of Intellectual Property Concentration at Suffolk University School of Law in Boston.
  • Kenneth W. Simons, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law.

The next discussion, beginning at 10:15 a.m., focuses on ways the crimtorts concept can be applied to areas of law, including civil rights, products liability, tort reform and class actions. This group features:
  • Martha Chamallas, the Robert J. Lynn Chair in Law at The Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law.
  • Jeffery O’Connell, the Samuel H. McCoy II Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law.
  • Byron G. Stier, Associate Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School.
  • Frank J. Vandall, Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law.

A third panel, starting at 12:45 p.m., will consider punitive damages. That group features:
  • Mark Geistfeld, the Crystal Eastman Professor of Law at New York University School of Law.
  • Keith N. Hylton, Professor of Law and the Paul J. Liacos Scholar in Law at Boston University School of Law.
  • Sheila B. Scheuerman, Associate Professor of Law at the Charleston School of Law.
  • Anthony J. Sebok, Professor of Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University.
  • Catherine M. Sharkey, Professor of Law at New York University School of Law.

The event is sponsored by the law school’s student-run Widener Law Journal.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. the day of the program. The conference is approved for 4 ½ continuing legal education credits in Delaware and Pennsylvania (no ethics). Those who attend for credits will be charged $50. The cost is $25 for all others who attend, except for students, who are free. To register, contact Sandra Graeff at 717.541.3965 or slgraeff@widener.edu.