The 17th Annual John F. Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics and Culture, 01/20

“Criminal Justice Reform: Refusing to Return Evil for Evil”


Friday, January 20
8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Martin G. McGuinn ’67 Ceremonial Courtroom (Room 201)
John F. Scarpa Hall
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
299 N. Spring Mill Road, Villanova, PA 19085


The United States incarcerates citizens at a higher rate per capita than any other nation. Although the rate of imprisonment in the U.S. has increased by 500% in the last 40 years, violent crime is on the rise, and fear of violence is a significant and growing political concern. There is widespread agreement that our harsh and punitive criminal justice system needs reform, yet the usual reform efforts are limited in effectiveness by being merely technocratic or ideologically partisan. 

Lawyerly work, informed by respect for the inviolable dignity of the human person and an understanding of law and punishment as ordered for the common good, is needed to transform our criminal justice system. Growing out of the work of the Catholic Criminal Justice Reform Network of the Lumen Christi Institute at The University of Chicago, this conference aims to energize and focus criminal justice reform efforts by engaging fundamental religious and moral commitments. This year’s conference will feature criminal law and justice experts, whose work is shaped by these deeper commitments and seeks to develop reform coalitions for the common good. 

The 17th Annual John F. Scarpa Conference on Law, Politics and Culture will interest legal practitioners and reformers, as well as those impacted by the criminal justice system, including returning citizens, victims and survivors of crime and affected family members. Deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution, vengeance, mercy, hatred, love and the common good will be among the topics of this conference aimed at truly transformative work in denouncing crime, vindicating victims, reforming and punishing wrongdoers and healing relationships torn by crime. 

The Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board has approved this symposium for 4.5 substantive and 1 ethical credit. Please note registration prior to the event is required.


Co-sponsored by the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture



8:30 a.m.: Welcome and Introduction

Patrick McKinley Brennan, Professor of Law & John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

8:45 a.m.: Keynote Address
Hon. Stephanos Bibas, United States Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit


Session 1 – Principles of Lasting Reform

9:45 a.m.: Hon. Thomas More Donnelly, Circuit Judge for Cook County, IL

10:30 a.m.: Break

10:45 a.m.: Cecelia Klingele, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin Law School

11:30 a.m.: Father Javier del Castillo, U.S. Vicar of the Prelature of Opus Dei

12:15 p.m.: Lunch break


Session 2 – Punishment and Mercy

1:00 p.m.: Stephen Garvey, A. Robert Noll Professor of Law, Cornell Law School

1:45 p.m.: Irene Joe, Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law

2:30 p.m.: John Stinneford, Professor of Law, University of Florida Levine College of Law and Inaugural Director, Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education, University of Florida

3:15 p.m.: Break


Session 3 – Catholic Social Thought in Action

3:30 p.m.: Michael O’Hear, Professor of Law, Marquette University Law School

4:15 p.m.: Roundtable Discussion

4:45 p.m.: Conclusion