Distinguished Professor of Law
Alec Walen
Rutgers Law School
217 N 5th St
Camden, NJ 08102

Alec Walen has taught courses in criminal law, counterterrorism law, the philosophy of rights, and the philosophy of criminal law. He holds a joint appointment in the School of Law, and the Philosophy Department and the Program in Criminal Justice at Rutgers-New Brunswick. His recent work focuses on the philosophical foundations of moral rights and the criminal law.

  • Biography
  • Publications
  • Courses Taught
  • Expertise

Alec Walen is a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers, holding a joint appointment in the School of Law, the Philosophy Department (New Brunswick), and the Program in Criminal Justice (New Brunswick). He served as Director of the Program in Criminal Justice from 2019-2022.

He earned a B.A. at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1987, a Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh in 1993, and a J.D. from Harvard in 1998. After law school, he clerked for District Court Judge Nancy Gertner (1998-99), and worked as an associate for the D.C. office of what was then Mayer, Brown and Platt (1999-2000), before entering the academic track in 2000.

His academic work focuses on the philosophical foundations of moral rights, with applications in criminal law, constitutional law, national security law, bioethics, and more. He has written over 40 substantial articles, published in peer review journals, books, or law reviews, as well as numerous shorter pieces and encyclopedia entries. His first book, The Mechanics of Claims and Permissible Killing in War, was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. He also serves as an associate editor at Law and Philosophy.



  • The Mechanics of Claims and Permissible Killing in War (Oxford University Press, 2019).
  • Punishment, Penalty, and Prevention in a Liberal State (under contract, Oxford University Press).


  1. “Deontology in Graphs: An Elucidation,” Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues (forthcoming).
  2. “Response to Critics,” Jus Cogens (forthcoming).
  3. "In Defense of Patient-Centered Theories of Deontology: A Response to Liao and Barry," Law and Philosophy (forthcoming): 10.1007/s10982-021-09412-y.
  4. “More Contra Moore on Omissions as Causes,” Criminal Law Bulletin 58 (2022): 375-385.
  5. “On Blame and Punishment: Self-Blame, Other-Blame, and Normative Negligence,” Law and Philosophy 41 (2022): 283-304.
  6. "Causation and Responsibility for Outcomes," in Kai Ambos et al, eds., Core Concepts in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, Vol. 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2022): 57-94.
  7. "Determinism, Compatibilism, and Basic Desert: A Reply to Gregg Caruso," Journal of Legal Philosophy 46 (2021): 144-148.
  8. "Using, Risking, and Consent: Why Risking Harm to Bystanders is Morally Different from Risking Harm to Research Subjects," Bioethics 34 (2020): 899-905.
  9. "Risks and Weak Aggregation: Why Different Models of Risk Suit Different Types of Cases," Ethics 131 (2020): 62-86
  10. "Criminal Law and Penal Law: The Wrongness Constraint and a Complementary Forfeiture Model," Criminal Law and Philosophy 14 (2020): 431-446.
  11. "Targeted Killing and the Criminal Law," in L. Alexander and K. Ferzan, eds., The Palgrave Handbook of Applied Ethics and the Criminal Law (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019): 753-771.
  12. "The Right to Cause Harm as an Alternative to Being Sacrificed for Others; An Exploration of Agent-Rights with a Special Focus on Intervening Agency," San Diego Law Review 55 (2018): 381-417.
  13. "Eliminative Killing and the Targeting of Noncombatants; Comments on Seth Lazar’s Sparing Civilians," Law and Philosophy 37 (2018): 313-325.
  14. "The Restricting Claims Principle Revisited," Law and Philosophy 35 (2016): 211-247.
  15. "Constitutional Rights for Nonresident Aliens; A Doctrinal and Normative Argument," Drexel Law Review 8 (2015): 53-112.
  16. "The Use and Abuse of Definitions in Constitutional Law; A Critique of Justice Roberts’s Dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges," Vienna Journal on International Constitutional Law 9 (2016): 581-585.
  17. "Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt; A Balanced Retributive Account," Louisiana Law Review 76 (2015): 355-446.
  18. "Fourth Amendment Rights for Nonresident Aliens," The German Law Journal 16 (2015):1131-1162.
  19. "Transcending the Means Principle," Law and Philosophy 33 (2014): 427-464.
  20. "Human Dignity and Proportionality: Deontic Pluralism in Balancing," in Huscroft, Miller and Webber (eds.) Proportionality and the Rule of Law: Rights, Justification, Reasoning (Cambridge University Press, 2014): 67-89 (with Mattias Kumm).
  21. "Reflections on Theorizing About the Moral Foundations of the Law: Using the Laws Governing Detention as a Case Study," in S. Vöneky et al (eds.) Ethics and Law--The Ethicalization of Law (Springer Press, 2013): 103-126.
  22. "Wrongdoing Without Motives: Why Tadros is Wrong About Wrongdoing and Motivation, Law and Philosophy," Law and Philosophy 32 (2013): 217-240.
  23. "Agents, Impartiality, and the Priority of Claims over Duties; Diagnosing Why Thomson Still Gets the Trolley Problem Wrong by Appeal to the “Mechanics of Claims," Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (2012): 545-571 (with David Wasserman).
  24. "A Punitive Precondition for Preventive Detention: Lost Status as an Element of a Just Punishment,"San Diego Law Review 63 (2011):1229-1272.
  25. "Transcending, but not Abandoning, the Combatant-Civilian Distinction: A Case Study," Rutgers Law Review 63 (2011):1149-1168. 
  26. "Criminalizing Statements of Terrorist Intent: How to Understand the Law Governing Terrorist Threats, and Why It Should be Used Instead of Long-Term Preventive Detention," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 101 (2011): 803-854.
  27. "A Unified Theory of Detention, with Application to Preventive Detention for Suspected Terrorists,"Maryland Law Review 70 (2011): 871-938.
  28. "Crime, Culpability and Moral Luck; Comment on Alexander, Ferzan and Morse,"Law and Philosophy 29 (2010): 373-384. 
  29. "Constitutional Rights for Nonresident Aliens," Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly 29 (Summer/Fall 2009): 2-6.
  30. "Judicial Review in Review: A Four-Part Defense of Legal Constitutionalism. A Review Essay on Political Constitutionalism, by Richard Bellamy," International Journal of Constitutional Law 7 (2009):329-354.
  31. "Comments on Doug Husak: The Low Cost of Recognizing (and of Ignoring) the Limited Relevance of Intentions to Permissibility," Criminal Law and Philosophy 3 (2009): 71-78. 
  32. "Crossing a Moral Line: Long-Term Preventive Detention in the War on Terror," Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly 28 (Summer/Fall 2008): 15-21.
  33. "Detention in the “War on Terror”: Constitutional Interpretation Informed by the Law of War," ILSA Journal of International & Comparative Law 14 (2008): 45-97 (with Ingo Venzke).
  34. "Unconstitutional Detention of Nonresident Aliens: Revisiting the Supreme Court’s Treatment of the Law of War in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld," Heidelberg Journal of International Law 67 (2007): 843-885 (with Ingo Venzke).
  35. "The Doctrine of Illicit Intentions," Philosophy and Public Affairs 34 (2006): 39-67.
  36. "The Constitutionality of States Extending Personhood to the Unborn," Constitutional Commentary 22 (2005):161-179.
  37. "Permissibly Encouraging the Impermissible," Journal of Value Inquiry 38 (2004):341-354.
  38. "Chastened Ambitions: Mark Tushnet’s The New Constitutional Order," International Journal of Constitutional Law 2 (2004):195-205. 
  39. "Criticizing the Obligatory Acts of Lawyers: A Response to Markovits’s Legal Ethics from the Lawyer’s Point of View," Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities 16 (2004):1-43.
  40. "Reasonable Illegal Force: Justice and Legitimacy in a Pluralistic, Liberal Society," Ethics 111 (2001):344-373.
  41. "The Significance of Rawls's Law of Peoples; A Response to Lea Brilmayer," International Legal Theory 6 (2000):51-57. 
  42. "Consensual Sex Without Assuming the Risk of Carrying an Unwanted Fetus; Another Foundation for the Right to an Abortion," Brooklyn Law Review 63 (1997): 1051-1140.
  43. "The ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and Authoritarian Morality,"The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 5 (1997): 619-642.
  44. "Doing, Allowing, and Disabling: Some Principles Governing Deontological Restrictions," Philosophical Studies 80 (1995): 183-215.

Encyclopedia Entries

  1. "Retributive Justice," in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2020/entries/justice-retributive/.
  2. "Boumediene v. Bush," in American Governance, Stephen L. Schechter (ed.) (Detroit: Macmillan, 2016): 146-148.
  3. "Justice," in Encyclopedia of Modern Political Thought, Gregory Claeys (ed.) (Sage Press, 2013): 463-466.


Short Reviews, Comments, Columns, and Other

  1. “When Roe Falls,” on PEA Soup, May 10, 2022, https://peasoup.deptcpanel.princeton.edu/2022/05/when-roe-falls-guest-post-by-alec-walen/.
  2. “Walen on Ahmaud Arbery,” on the Prawfs Blawg, Oct. 28, 2021, https://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2021/10/walen-on-ahmaud-arbery.html#more.
  3. "On Blaming Those Incited to Riot in the US Capitol,” on the Public Ethics Blog of the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace, Jan. 18, 2021, https://www.publicethics.org/post/on-blaming-those-incited-to-riot-in-the-us-capitol.
  4. "A Philosophical Conversation on COVID-19: with Alec Walen, Sophia Moreau, and Christian Barry,” on PEA Soup, June 1, 2020, http://peasoup.us/2020/06/a-philosophical-conversation-on-covid-19-with-alec-walen-sophia-moreau-and-christian-barry.
  5. "The ethics of a pandemic are not those of a ‘new normal,’" May 12, 2020, https://capx.co/the-ethics-of-a-pandemic-are-not-those-of-a-new-normal/.
  6. On Permissible Killing, Interviewed by Richard Marshall, 3:16, 2019, https://316am.site123.me/articles/on-permissible-killing?c=end-times-series.
  7. "In Defense Of Horse Racing: Facing The Question Of Ethics," July 22, 2019, https://www.paulickreport.com/news/ray-s-paddock/in-defense-of-horse-racing-facing-the-question-of-ethics/.
  8. "Introduction to the Rutgers Law Review Symposium on ‘Theorizing Criminal Law Reform,’" Rutgers Law Review 70 (2018) (with Stuart Green): 1083-1092.
  9. "Can the New DOJ Policy on Pot Be Applied Retroactively?" Posted on Balkinization, Jan. 5, 2018, https://balkin.blogspot.com/2018/01/can-new-doj-policy-on-pot-be-applied.html.
  10. Book Review of Larry Laudan’s, The Law’s Flaws: Rethinking Trial and Errors? (College Publications, 2016) posted on Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books, October 2017, http://clcjbooks.rutgers.edu/books/the-laws-flaws-rethinking-trial-and-errors/.
  11. Book Review of Kai Draper’s War and Individual Rights: The Foundations of Just War Theory (Oxford University Press, 2015) in Ethics 127 (2016): 277-281.
  12. Book Review of Robert Wagstaff’s Terror Detentions in the Rule of Law: US and UK Perspectives (Oxford University Press, 2014), posted on Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books, March 2015, http://clcjbooks.rutgers.edu/books/terror-detentions-and-the-rule-of-law.html.
  13. "Introduction to the Special Issue on Deontology and the Criminal Law,” Criminal Law and Philosophy (2014): DOI 10.1007/s11572-014-9353-y.
  14. "Is it time for moderate Republicans to consider forming a third political party?” http://blog.nj.com/njv_guest_blog/2013/10/is_it_time_for_moderate_republ.html.
  15. Book Review of Andrew Ashworth et al (eds.) Prevention and the Limits of the Criminal Law (Oxford University Press, 2013), posted on Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books, September 2013, http://clcjbooks.rutgers.edu/books/prevention-and-the-limits-of-the-criminal-law.html.
  16. "Comment on Slobogin,” in Michael Corrado (ed.), Preventing Danger: New Paradigms in Criminal Justice (Durham, NC: Carolina Press, 2013): 161-166.
  17. "Potholes on the Path to Purity: Gideon Yaffe's Overly Ambitious Attempt to Account for Criminal Attempts,” Criminal Law and Philosophy6 (2012): 383-386.
  18. Book Review of Victor Tadros’s The Ends of Harm (Oxford University Press, 2011), posted on Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books, May 2012, http://clcjbooks.rutgers.edu/books/ends_of_harm.html.
  19. "Intentions and Permissibility” on PEA Soup, April 26, 2012, http://peasoup.typepad.com/peasoup/2012/04/intentions-and-permissibility.html.
  20. "A Recent Exoneration Underlines a Basic Truth: As Long as We Have the Death Penalty, We Will Inevitably Execute the Innocent,” Column on Writ at Findlaw.com, co-written with Monty Smith, January 29, 2004, http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20040129_walen.html.
  21. Book Review of Quentin Skinner’s Liberty Before Liberalism (Cambridge University Press, 1998) in Utilitas 15 (November 2003): 378-380.
  22. Book Review of Judith Jarvis Thomson’s Goodness and Advice (Princeton University Press, 2001) in Utilitas 15 (July 2003): 253-255.
  23. "An Alternative to the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act: The Preferable, Constitutional Legislation Congress Declined to Enact,” Column on Writ at Findlaw.com, June 16, 2003, http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20030616_walen.html.
  24. "Federalism For Postwar Iraq: How Federalism May Make Democracy Work,” Column on Column on Writ at Findlaw.com, April 10, 2003, http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20030410_walen.html.
  25. "If Roe v. Wade Is Overruled, What Arguments Should Abortion Rights Supporters Use?” Column on Writ at Findlaw.com, February 18, 2003, http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20030218_walen.html.
  26. "Double Jeopardy and the Death Penalty: A Supreme Court Case To Be Argued in November May Only Show The Court’s Continuing Support for Execution,” Column on Writ at Findlaw.com, October 29, 2002, http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20021029_walen.html.
  27. "Cloning for Research and Therapy, Not To Produce Children: The President's Council Weighs In On Banning Versus Allowing It,” Column on Writ at Findlaw.com., July 25, 2002, http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20020725_walen.html.
  28. Co-inventor in US Patent No. 5,172,350 (One-handed clock).
  • Criminal Law
  • Jurisprudence
  • National Security Law
  • Philosophy (Law &)
  • Terrorism (International)