26 July 2006

MPC Garbage & Teaching CrimLaw

Sorry, professor, but you're wrong. The MPC needs to be jettisoned from law schools. It doesn't reflect the reality and some of us do practice criminal law after we leave law school. That's why you're teaching it to us - so that we can eventually practice that which we have been taught.

We had two professors at my law school who taught crimlaw. Mine taught the MPC; my roommate's taught the common law. It was a hellacious shock to start practicing and realize that the MPC has absolutely nothing to do with the practice of criminal law in Virginia. I learned more that was pertinent to my actual practice from having helped my roommate study the common law definitions and listening to him repeat the definitions over and over again to memorize them. And, yes, Virginia does use common law definitions for many crimes (not statutory). Groot's Criminal Offenses and Defenses in Virginia has been as important to the practice as the statute books (not sure what's going to happen now that he's gone).

I realize there are States out there which have adopted a penal code. However, a code would have it's basis in the common law and therefore it would logically be easier to upgrade one's knowledge from the common law to the code. The common law is not in any manner based on the MPC (don't even try to argue it in a Virginia court) and therefore the MPC may have to be unlearned in order to practice effectively.

Please don't send more students out to places like Virginia improperly trained.


Anonymous said...

As someone that does his best to avoid your state, opting for Thurgood Marshall over national (it is called something new now, but I forget what), I can state that many states have penal codes that are closer to the MPC.

Anonymous said...


Virginia's approach is more and more of an outlier in criminal law. So the MPC really is very helpful for students who are going to practice in lots of states. Just not in Va.

Ken Lammers said...

Even in those States where a code has been accepted the MPC is badly dated and not a suitable way to teach crimlaw. I remember reading in law school that it hadn't been updated or adopted by a new State in over 15 years (that would make it well over 20 years now); most significantly, it has been rejected by the feds.

We weren't taught any drug offenses while studying the MPC, nor anything about sentencing (which I believe was because the MPC's sentencing structure has been generally rejected), and our professor specifically double taught us the MPC and common law for murder (generally it was thought that this was because he thought the MPC was right, but had to teach common law because the MPC scheme had been rejected).

I still say that someone who has been taught common law larceny, embezzlement, and larceny by trick will have an easier time learning the combined "theft" in an MPC based penal code than someone who was taught theft to have to go back and learn the various common law crimes. It also provides a broader range of knowledge and historical perspective.

Anonymous said...

I recently broke my hand, otherwise I'd have more to say about this topic. At my law school we have two crim profs, one who is 100% MPC (Ohio is a so called MPC state) and another who is all 5 part model of aa crime/common law. I had the latter. Personally, I found the theoretical aspects of understanding the five variable model and the common law gave me a solid understanding of the
"fudamentals", a methodology for understanding any crime. How, this works in practice, who knows, but it worked in my brain as Crim was my one full on A.