Good Law | Bad Law #64 - Vigilantism W/ Paul Robinson

Aaron Freiwald, Managing Partner of Freiwald Law and host of the weekly podcast series Good Law | Bad Law, is joined by Paul Robinson, a Law Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of the new book “Shadow Vigilantes: How distrust in the justice system breeds a new kind of lawlessness.” Paul is here today to talk about vigilantism and its impact on society.

Aaron and Paul start the episode by briefly explaining our criminal justice system; how the state or government takes on the role of plaintiff in criminal cases on behalf of the people. This responsibility makes it so citizens don’t have to be their own police force, it provides a sense of order.

When the government fails to provide justice to its citizens, or when citizens don’t believe justice has been served, they may turn to a form of vigilantism. It’s this act, the act of people taking the law into their own hands, that Paul’s book examines.

Paul explains two types of vigilantism. Classic vigilantism generally involves a group of people that has been ignored by society and they have to protect themselves. This can be seen during the Civil Rights Movement, where African American citizens were being targeted by the police and treated unfairly; and in the Gay Rights Movement when LGBT individuals were being targeted by the police without cause. In these two scenarios, these groups had to protect themselves from the government that was supposed to be there to protect them.

The second type of vigilantism is shadow vigilantism or community vigilantism. This is the type of vigilantism that can cause problems in our society because its root cause is less obvious. Rather than a group of people taking action to protect themselves, this involves individuals taking action, taking the law into their own hands due to a perceived injustice.

Join Aaron Freiwald and Paul Robinson for this great conversation about vigilantism. To learn more about vigilantism, read Paul’s book, “Shadow Vigilantes: How distrust in the justice system breeds a new kind of lawlessness.”

Paul’s book:

Remember to tune in every Friday for new episodes of Good Law | Bad Law!