ABSTRACT: Charges of hypocrisy in law and politics are so endlessly leveled they seem to have lost their charge and meaning. These charges, however, conceive of hypocrisy as a personal failing missing the way hypocrisy can infect law and legal systems institutionally. Realizing that hypocrisy can be an institutional failing helps us to isolate particular legal defects which otherwise escape our attention.
This article begins by clarifying the moral defect we describe as hypocrisy. Once clearly defined, one notices that hypocrisy can be a failing of not just people but of laws and legal systems. Legal hypocrisy is unique and not reducible to poor treatment or discrimination. Finally, the article concludes that legal hypocrisy is more insidious than many of the defects that have seized the imagination of legal theorists because it threatens its “direct” victims but damages all by undermining fidelity to law and ultimately, the rule of law itself.
Ekow Yankah holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Columbia Law School and Oxford University. His work focuses on questions of criminal theory and punishment and political theory and particularly, questions political obligation and its interaction with justifications of punishment. His work has appeared in law review articles and peer reviewed legal theory journals and books. He has been a visiting fellow at the Israeli Institute of Advanced Studies, as well as a Visiting Professor of Law at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, and a Distinguished Visiting Faculty Member at the University of Toronto School of Law.
His interests have also led him to develop expertise in voting rights and election law and he serves as the co-chair of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, the voting rights arm of the New York Democratic party and the coordinating arm of the DNC believed to be the largest voting rights group in the country. He sits on the Board of the Innocence Project and has served on the Board of the American Constitution Society (NY Chapter). His public work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Huffington Post, among others and has been a regular commentator on criminal law issues on television and radio including MSNBC, BBC, and BBC International.
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