Peter L. Arenella

Professor of Law Emeritus

  • B.A. Wesleyan University, 1969
  • J.D. Harvard, 1972
  • UCLA Faculty Since 1987

Peter Arenella teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and seminars on moral agency and criminal law excuse theory. In 1999 he received the School of Law's Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is a nationally recognized criminal law and procedure scholar, writing about the relationship between criminal and moral responsibility by exploring competing conceptions of criminal culpability and moral agency at work in immaturity and mental disability defenses (e.g., insanity, diminished capacity, mental retardation). His moral agency work in philosophical and legal journals has generated considerable commentary and is frequently cited in ongoing debates about the justifications for criminal punishment. He has also written extensively on the privilege against self incrimination and grand jury practices.

Professor Arenella clerked for the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and practiced criminal law as both a public defender and private counsel. He then taught at Rutgers, the University of Pennsylvania, and Boston University, where he won that university's prize for excellence in teaching.

State and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have cited Professor Arenella's articles, and congressional committees have sought his advice and testimony. He gives annual lectures on Supreme Court decisions to federal and state appellate judges and speaks regularly on criminal law issues to civic groups, attorneys, judges, law faculty, and students across the country. He has worked as a legal consultant for ABC News, National Public Radio, and in Los Angeles KNX radio and KTLA Channel 5, and he achieved national prominence for his media commentary on the O.J. Simpson and other trials. He is a fanatical Boston Red Sox fan.


  • Articles And Chapters
    • The Perils of T.V. Legal Punditry, 1998 University of Chicago Legal Forum Symposium Issue 25-52 (1998).
    • Miranda Stories, 20 Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 375-87 (1997).
    • Televising High Profile Trials: Are We Better Off Pulling the Plug?, 37 Santa Clara Law Review 879-912 (1997).
    • Demystifying the Abuse Excuse: Is There One?, 19 Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 703-09 (1996).
    • O. J. Lessons, 69 Southern California Law Review 1233-65 (1996).
    • Simms Memorial Lecture Explaining the Unexplainable: Analyzing the Simpson Verdict, 26 New Mexico Law Review 349-66 (1996).
    • Convicting the Morally Blameless: Reassessing the Relationship between Legal and Moral Accountability, 39 UCLA Law Review 1511-622 (1992).
    • Contributor, in Encyclopedia of the American Constitution: Supplement I, (edited by Leonard W. Levy, Kenneth L. Karst et al., Macmillan, 1992).
    • Character, Choice and Moral Agency: The Relevance of Character to Our Moral Culpability Judgments, 2 Social Philosophy & Policy 59-83 (1990). Reprinted in Crime, Culpability and Remedy 59-83 (edited by Ellen F. Paul et al., Blackwell, 1990).
    • Diminished Capacity, in 2 Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice, 612-17 (edited by S. Kadish, Free Press, 1983).
    • Rethinking the Functions of Criminal Procedure: The Warren and Burger Courts’ Competing Ideologies, 72 Georgetown Law Journal 185-248 (1983).
    • Reflections on Current Proposals to Abolish or Reform the Insanity Defense, 8 American Journal of Law and Medicine 271-84 (1982).
    • Reporter, in ABA Grand Jury Policy and Model Act, 2nd ed. (ABA Section of Criminal Justice, 1982). Prior edition: 1st, 1977.
    • Schmerber and the Privilege against Self-Incrimination: A Reappraisal, 20 American Criminal Law Review 31-61 (1982).
    • Reforming the State Grand Jury System: A Model Grand Jury Act, 13 Rutgers Law Journal (1981).
    • Reforming the Federal Grand Jury and the State Preliminary Hearing to Prevent Conviction without Adjudication, 78 Michigan Law Review 463-585 (1980). Reprinted in 7 National Journal of Criminal Defense 299-443 (1981).
    • The Diminished Capacity and Diminished Responsibility Defenses: Two Children of a Doomed Marriage, 77 Columbia Law Review 827-65 (1977).
  • Other
    • The Perils of Punditry (In Pro Per Column), California Lawyer (October, 1997).
    • Daily Column on Simpson Trial Developments, Legal Pad (January-October, 1995).
    • Victims Must Be Held Accountable for Their Own Crimes, Los Angeles Daily Journal at 6 (Jan. 28, 1994).
    • Are Kids Who Lash Back Culpable? (When Victims Strike Back; Part 2), Los Angeles Times at B7 (Aug. 4, 1993).
    • Should the Law Blame the Victim Who Takes Revenge? (When Victims Strike Back; Part 1), Los Angeles Times at B7 (Aug. 3, 1993).
    • Dissecting the King Verdict: Prosecutor’s Mistakes, Jurors’ Subconscious Racism, Led to Acquittals, Los Angeles Daily Journal at 6 (May 7, 1992).
    • Prosecutions Error’s, Jury’s Attitudes May Have Acquitted LAPD Officers, Daily News Viewpoint 1, 4 (May 3, 1992).
    • Burger Court Took a Different Road, Los Angeles Times at 5 (June 27, 1986).
    • “Right” to Silence Diluted by the Burger Court, National Law Journal at 30-32 (Aug. 1, 1983).
    • Book Review, 80 Columbia Law Review 420-34 (1980). Reviewing Mental Disabilities and Criminal Responsibility, by Herbert Fingarette and Ann Fingarette Haus.