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Gould professor recognized for groundbreaking research

Yulia Nakagome • September 13, 2022
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American Journal of Legal History selects Professor Mugambi Jouet for important contribution to understanding of U.S. legal history

By Yulia Nakagome

Professor Mugambi Jouet’s paper, published by the American Journal of Legal History, was honored for adding “new insights to the study and understanding of U.S. legal history.”

USC Gould School of Law Professor Mugambi Jouet has been awarded the 2022 Alfred L. Brophy Prize by the American Journal of Legal History for a paper that expands the understanding of American legal history, from the founding era to the evolution of criminal punishment.

Jouet was acknowledged for his paper, “Revolutionary Criminal Punishments: Treason, Mercy, and the American Revolution” (2021), which narrows in on the mercy that American leaders showed to British loyalists during the American Revolution, as well as insurgents in the subsequent Shays, Whiskey, and Fries rebellions. The death penalty was rarely applied and many actual or alleged traitors readily rehabilitated themselves, such as by recognizing their faults and swearing oaths of allegiance to the newly founded American republic – a sharp contrast to the purges of the contemporary French Revolution.

The annual award recognizes the contribution to the journal that “most significantly breaks new ground and adds new insights to the study and understanding of United States legal history,” according to the American Journal of Legal History. In recognizing the winning paper, the journal noted: “By moving the analysis from ordinary criminal offenses to political crimes, Jouet challenges narratives that emphasize the severity of criminal punishment before the rise of penal institutions. This work has implications beyond the revolutionary era; it foreshadows the emergence of modern penal practices, particularly guilty pleas, probation sentences, and rehabilitation policies aiming to reintegrate wrongdoers into society.”

New perspective on historical evolution of criminal punishment in U.S.

“I am honored to have received the Brophy Prize from the American Journal of Legal History given its dedication to advancing peer-reviewed legal scholarship,” Jouet said. “My article aspires to offer an original perspective on neglected chapters of the American Revolution and ensuing rebellions, which can help us better understand the historical evolution of criminal punishment in the United States.

The award is named for Al Brophy, a scholar on the eras of slavery and Jim Crow and former Judge John J. Parker Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law and Paul and Charlene Jones Chair in Law at the University of Alabama.

“It is likewise an honor to receive an award named after Al Brophy, a remarkable scholar and human being who played a key role in relaunching the journal in 2016,” Jouet added.

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