Sunday, February 13, 2011
Recent events in Egypt are a meaningful reminder of the power of broad-based, nonviolent movements from the history of other nations, such as India. Earlier this month, we explored the presidential election process under the Egyptian Constitution here and its requirements for presidential succession here. Mubarak has since resigned. The Constitution of Egypt is now suspended, with promises of a new constitution.
As legal scholars contemplate the uprising in Egypt with an eye toward the possibility of further popular uprisings in the Middle East, they might also be looking to earlier nonviolent freedom movements. Nearly 81 years ago this week, the All-India Congress Committee authorized a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience aimed a loosening the grip of British colonial rule. Mahatma Gandhi launched the Civil Disobedience Movement in India in March of 1930 by leading the historic Dandi Salt March, also known as the Salt Satyagraha. (Satyagragha translates as “truth seeking” or “asking for truth.”) The Salt March was a pivotal moment in India’s long campaign for independence, because as Gandhi marched from village to village and ultimately to the sea where he and his fellow marchers made salt without paying the reviled British salt tax, a nationalist fervor swept the country.
Professor of Law at WVU Charles R. DiSalvo does just that in a brief chronicle of Gandhi as a practicing attorney in the article “Gandhi: The Transformation of a South African Lawyer, 1897-1898,” in Rethinking Gandhi and Nonviolent Relationality: Global Perspectives (Degjani Ganguly & John Docker, eds. 2008). In it, DiSalvo theorizes that “the experiences Gandhi underwent during the time he practiced law in South Africa transformed his vision of law as an engine of social change. . . ., [and] that this transformation, during which Gandhi lost faith in an ultimately corrupt legal system, constituted a key pre-condition for his eventual embrace of nonviolence.” Id. Overall, “Gandhi’s experience with the law in 1897 and 1898 in particular constitutes a microcosm that foreshadows and helps explain his transformation from business lawyer to civil rights attorney to civil disobedient.” Id. at 100.
DiSalvo traces Gandhi’s legal experiences beginning with his rather common transaction work for Indian business interests in the colony of Natal (now the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). But after the imposition of a series of legislative acts by the colonial legislature that intended to weaken the influence of Indian merchants, Gandhi was persuaded to “organize [the merchants’] resistance to the European assault on their rights.” Id. at 101. The worst of the laws was the Dealers’ Licenses Act (“DLA”), which required every wholesale and retail business in the colony to obtain a government permit. The Act empowered local “Licensing Officers to deny permits to those who could not maintain their books in English,” and for other “imprecisely drawn grounds,” all of which served as handy pretexts for racial discrimination by local European officials. Unsurprisingly, the essentially standard-less requirements, further compounded by the prohibition of a direct appeal to the courts, lead to racially-motivated crackdown on Indian businesses throughout the colony.
As an advocate for these targeted interests, Gandhi first “relied almost exclusively on petitioning – incessant, persistent, unrelenting petitioning.” Id. at 102. This failed. But, turning to litigation, Gandhi found some success in as-applied challenges to the arbitrary reviewing process of the permitting. Grounded in basic notions of due process – specifically, fair notice – Gandhi was able to convince the colonial Supreme Court to reverse a few licensure denials. But his clever statutory interpretations would only get his Indian clients so far, as the despised anti-Indian Acts remained on the books. In the end,
Gandhi’s recognition of the judiciary’s limitations as a tool for social change marked an early but key turning point in his transformation from lawyer to civil disobedient. While the courts might address procedural irregularities, they could not be counted on to attack basic, underlying norms and the power establishment of which they themselves were a part. The courts would not turn on themselves. The law would not free Gandhi’s people – at least not in the manner he expected it would in 1898.
Id. at 112.
DiSalvo asks of Gandhi, “Is this the end? Does he give up on the law entirely?” His conclusion is subtle, yet powerful:
Gandhi’s frustration with the courts led him to abandon litigation as a tool for social change and contributed to his decision to embrace nonviolent civil disobedience. . . . It is rejection of litigation. It is not a rejection of law. His rejection of litigation is a stage in his developing understanding of the law as much deeper, more expansive and more filled with promise than litigation. In the remainder of his life, he comes to see and believe in the deep underlying structure of the law. It is to this that his nonviolent disobedience appeals. A civil disobedient who willingly subjects himself to the punishment of the system, as Gandhi did, believes in the grand structure of the law, in the rule of law.
Id. at 113.
DiSalvo is presently completing a full legnth book on Ghandi's life as a lawyer. Meanwhile, DiSalvo's interview with Australian Broadcasting Comany from several months ago is a treat; listen to it here.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether distinct comparisons between the Indian experience and recent events in Egypt will prove pertinent. Nevertheless, understanding the intersection of law and the history of nonviolent freedom movements can’t be a bad place to start.
with J. Zak Ritchie
(image: Gandhi in Johannesburg, 1905, via)
Saturday, February 5, 2011
"I like constitutional law because the anchor of my race is grounded on the constitution. It is the certificate of our liberty and our equality before the law. Our citizenship is based on it, and hence I love it."
So said Lutie Lytle (pictured). She was born in 1875 and was among the first African Americans to earn a law degree when she graduated from Central Tennessee Law School in 1898. She returned to Central Tennessee to teach law and newspaper accounts "claimed that she was the only woman law instructor in the world." She reportedly taught criminal procedure, evidence, and domestic relations during her brief time in academia. She later moved to New York and was active in the National Bar Association. Although information about Lytle's career and life is regrettably sparse, a solid scholarly resource is J. Clay Smith, Jr.'s, Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944 (1993).
(H/T Judith Scully)
Friday, January 28, 2011
The Judicial Nominating Commission in Iowa, the subject of a recent unsuccessful lawsuit regarding its composition, has sifted through the 60 applicants and sent 9 candidates for the 3 vacancies to the Governor.
There is one woman, one racial minority, and one law professor - - - and then there are 8 other candidates.
Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law (pictured left) is also the youngest candidate, at age 37, according to The Des Moines Register.
Onwuachi-Willig is a prolific scholar on race, class, and feminism, including their constitutional aspects. One of Onwuachi-Willig's most influential articles is Just Another Brother on the Supreme Court?: What Justice Clarence Thomas Teaches Us About the Influence of Racial Identity in which she argues that Thomas' ideology is deeply grounded in black conservative thought, which has a "raced" history and foundation that are distinct from white conservatism. She seeks to explain Justice Thomas's jurisprudence from a black, conservative perspective in cases concerning education and desegregation, affirmative action, and crime.
The current vacancies on the Iowa Supreme Court occurred when three Iowa Supreme Court justices stood for retention last November and were not retained by the voters of Iowa. This result is widely assumed to be attributable to the campaign against the judges based upon the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous opinion in Varnum v. Brien holding that a denial of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional under the state constitution.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The John Marshall Law School (Chicago) is soliciting applications for a new visiting chair in Constitutional Law.
The Chair honors Edward T. Lee and his son, Noble W. Lee, for their many years of service to the law school, their contributions to legal education, and their shared passion for constitutional law. From the announcement:
Pioneers in American legal education, Edward T. and Noble W. Lee held strongly to the belief that it is critical to the health of our democratic society that the study of law be open to all segments of society, irrespective of race, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status. As a consequence, from its earliest years, the principles of access and opportunity in legal education have been deeply ingrained in the school's culture and mission.
The Chair appointment begins in August 2011 and runs for up to two years. The incumbent will write, teach, and speak; details are negotiable.
Applications are due November 1. Click here for more information.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Position Announcement: Herb Kurz Endowed Chair in Constitutional Law and Civil Liberties at Brooklyn College, City University of New York (pictured left).
Brooklyn College invites applications for the Herb Kurz Endowed Chair in Constitutional Law and Civil Liberties. Research and writing in any of the following areas is of particular interest: Congress’ commerce-clause powers over the economy and other sectors of national life; executive power during wartime; freedom of speech; the rights of criminal suspects and prisoners; equal protection and due process for people of color, women, and LGBT communities; the rights and standing of immigrants and migrant communities; the role of international law, particularly human rights law, in constitutional interpretation. This position is at the Associate or Full Professor level. Candidates should have a PhD in political science or any related discipline in the humanities and social sciences and/or a Juris Doctor, and a distinguished record of teaching, scholarship, and leadership in the field of constitutional law.
Position listing here.RR
Friday, July 23, 2010
Sherrilyn Infill, ConLawProf at the University of Maryland School of Law and author of On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-first Century, has two recent commentaries worth reading.
In her just published and provocatively titled commentary, "What the U.S. Supreme Court Did to Us This Year" Ifill begins by noting the confirmation by the Senate Judiciary Committee of Elena Kagan and notes:
Kagan will join a court whose conservative majority has aggressively taken and decided cases that are transforming the constitutional landscape in ways that will have far-reaching effects. Some Supreme Court analysts have rated the court's actions in the just-concluded term as unremarkable. But for average Americans and for minority communities, the 2009-2010 term of the court is a significant one.
In a different commentary, Infill has something to say about the Shirley Sherrod controversy, making an interesting link to the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation process.
Friday, May 7, 2010
ConLawProf, constitutional law litigator, and Vice-President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Rhonda Copelon (pictured below) died yesterday, May 6, 2010.
Video interviews, more about her work, and a photo slide show is available here.
Friday, April 2, 2010
SALTLAW is the new blog of SALT, Society of American Law Teachers, self-described as a "community of progressive law teachers working for justice, diversity and academic excellence."
SALT is known for its teaching conferences, its activism on behalf of social justice issues including those in constitutional law, and its members, including those featured on the blog: Angela Harris (pictured left) and Rhonda Copelon (pictured right).
The blog announcement makes clear that the "blog is not a forum for the expression of SALT’s positions, but a place where our members can publish commentary on emerging issues in law, politics, and education or where they can develop arguments about policies and problems that are persistent or seem intractable. The SALT Board has no list of topics that should be addressed or any agenda that it has set for this blog."
Instead, the plan is a "year-long schedule of regular and guest contributors who will add voice to progressive issues" and will "include both legal and non-legal issues" ranging from "conversations about the economic crisis to questions about U.S. torture policies to discussions about the lack of diversity in baseball management to the development of a hip-hop theory of justice."
The roster of planned bloggers is an impressive one featuring many ConLawProfs.
Friday, February 26, 2010
ConLaw Prof Larry Tribe (pictured left) of Harvard Law School "will join the Justice Department next week as a senior and counselor focusing on expanding poor people's access to legal services" according to the Washington Post and announced by Harvard Law School.
The WaPo article notes, "The announcement comes a week after senior leaders at the department appeared at a Washington conference to draw attention to the large caseloads handled by public defenders and other challenges in providing legal services to low-income defendants."
Thus, it seems Tribe's efforts will be directed at the criminal justice system.
Meanwhile, on the civil side, Sharon Browne has been nominated to be the Director of the Legal Services Corporation - - - a choice objectionable to many civil rights and progressive legal organizations who support civil legal services for the poor. According to the Alliance for Justice, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proposed that Sharon Browne, a senior attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation ("PLF"), be nominated to fill a vacancy on the Legal Services Corporation ("LSC") Board of Directors, and Obama sent that nomination to the Senate for confirmation or rejection. In addition to her work at PLF, the Alliance for Justice objects to Browne because in 1992, "Browne was one in a group of plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit, Brosterhous v. State Bar of California,challenging the State Bar's use of attorneys' dues money to advocate for providing adequate legal services for the poor in the legislature."
The review in the NYT notes that "unlike some other commentators, Gormley allows for the possibility that even the most rabid-seeming players might have acted out of honorable considerations." Based on an interview with the federal district judge hearing the original sexual harassment lawsuit, Gormley also reveals that she contemplated finding Clinton in criminal contempt, which would have ended Clinton's political career in a "nanosecond." Yet the tenor of the 800 page book, at least according to the NYT review, is that the Clinton impeachment was all so unnecessary (quoting Starr) and diversionary.
The political relevance of Gormley's book is obvious. But it also seems an essential sequel to Clinton v. Jones, in which the Court unanimously rejected Clinton's constitutional arguments to stay the trial until after his presidency had ended.
February 26, 2010 in Books, Cases and Case Materials, Executive Privilege, History, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Scholarship, Separation of Powers, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Sunday, January 24, 2010
As Legal Writing Prof Blog notes, they'll be leading a one-week ABA Workshop on Teaching Essential Legal Skills -- Legal Writing and Analysis. Their audience is law professors from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the Middle East.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Lee Epstein's presentation this morning on the panel "American Constitutional Law and the New Supreme Court" at the AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans highlighted the Supreme Court Database, now available online. The database has an excellent tutorial which enhances the goal of accessibility (especially for those of us who may not have been stellar in that long-ago statistics course).
According to its own description, the database "contains over two hundred pieces of information about each case decided by the Court between the 1953 and 2008 terms. Examples include the identity of the court whose decision the Supreme Court reviewed, the parties to the suit, the legal provisions considered in the case, and the votes of the Justices."
During her presentation, Northwestern University School of Law Professor Lee Epstein used the database to empirically test some oft-voiced propositions, such as Justice Kennedy being a judicial supremacist or Justice Alito's replacement of Justice O'Connor being a negative consequence for criminal defendants. By doing several different types of data analysis, Epstein was able to provide the empirical interpretation of the propositions.
While it certainly does not substitute for a close reading of opinions (and of course, is not intended to do so), the Supreme Court Database is a great addition to scholarship and teaching. And much easier to tailor to one's own interests than the (still essential) Supreme Court Compendium and much easier to use than the previous software.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The controversy over John Yoo's professorship at UC-Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) continues.
The PBS News Hour aired a segment yesterday, available as mp3 audio, streaming video and transcript here.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, ENDA, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military, same-sex marriage and DOMA - - - these are often considered the "gay agenda." Indeed, President Obama's anticipated speech tonight at a Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington, DC, is expected to cover many of these issues, although according to preliminary reports, Obama's message will be one of patience and temperance, disappointing many activists.
Yet not all "activists" would agree that the conventionally described "gay agenda" should be the goals of any LGBT legal reform movement. Libby Adler (pictured below) ConLaw Prof at Northeastern University School of Law, argues that the ongoing "culture war," "while a fundraising boon and a media draw, compels a particular type of participation and a particular reform agenda, eclipsing reform possibilities that might be preferable in the long run."
In her article, The Gay Agenda, 16 Mich. J. Gender & L. 147 (2009), available in draft form on ssrn here, Adler not only seeks to transcend the "culture wars," but argues that goals of "formal equality" between "gay and straight people," need to be replaced by goals enabling law "to create the best possible conditions against which a broad array of people can make choices." In the context of the application of Loving to same-sex marriage arguments, Adler writes:
Formal equality has its merits, but it is not incontrovertible that formal equality is the highest value that law reformers could be pursuing at all times. For one thing, the very term formal equality exists in opposition to substantive equality, and—as any student of affirmative action or workplace accommodations for working mothers will report—these goals can conflict. A formal equality agenda can eclipse or even undermine other potentially worthy goals. . . . [t]he benefits of formal equality stand counterpoised to the costs associated with the pursuit of formal equality. While the attainment of formal equality has undeniable fairness appeal, the pursuit takes place in the context of a culture war which is waged in normalization and rights discourses.
Instead, Adler posits several law reform agendas. As a central example, she uses homeless adolescents. By combining critical theory and real lives, Professor Adler demonstrates a methodology to assist the rethinking of "the gay agenda" as well as equality.
This is a thought-provoking and necessary article, worth reading (if you haven't already done so) and assigning.
October 10, 2009 in Equal Protection, Family, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Scholarship, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Sunday, July 19, 2009
JUDICIAL VALUES: SHOULD JUDGES JUST APPLY THE LAW - OR SHOULD THEY BRING THEIR OWN VALUES TO THE TASK?: Forum
The questioning on "judicial values," phrased as "should judges just apply the law or should they bring their own values to the task" is not a uniquely American one. Indeed, this is the topic on a forum to be held at The Law School of University of Sydney, Australia, August 27, details here.
Schlink, of course, is the author of the bestselling novel The Reader, which is about a young man's affair with an older woman who is put on trial for her role in the Nazi regime. The book was made into a popular movie in 2008.
Schlink is not just a bestselling author, but also a Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law and the Philosophy of Law at Berlin's Humboldt University, who was previously a justice of the Constitutional Law Court in Bonn, Germany.
The forum event is being held in conjunction with the Sydney Writers Festival and hosted by Damien Carrick of the Australian Radio National’s "The Law Report." The publicity frames the discussion this way:
Schlink's most recent book is Guilt About the Past, a series of six essays based on his 2008 Weidenfeld lectures at Oxford University and being published by an Australian University Press.
July 19, 2009 in Books, Comparative Constitutionalism, Conferences, Current Affairs, History, International, Interpretation, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, June 5, 2009
Quoting Larry Tribe, Con Law Prof, Huffington Post reports that Tribe has stated:
The HuffPo piece by Emma Ruby-Sachs notes that Tribe "hired Obama as a research assistant in his first year of law school." The implication is that Obama is influenced by his former conlawprof? One might also look at Professor Obama's 1996 Con Law exam "feedback" regarding a lesbian issue, discussed here.
The DOJ has until June 29 to decide whether or not to defend the DOMA challenge, discussed here. The federal government's stance on the lawsuit is being closely watched. Obama is being criticized for not keeping his campaign promises to LGBT Americans. Obama's most recent statement on LGBT issues, blogged here, is also being criticized as insufficient as well as too radical.
DOMA was signed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1996 (pictured below).
Friday, May 8, 2009
Interested in a Constitutional Law III examination and feedback from 1996? What about if the Professor was the now-President Barak Obama?
The first question on the exam involves a lesbian seeking to obtain IVF despite a law that the "state legislature passed a law last year, titled the “Preservation of Family Values Act” (PFVA), that, inter alia, prohibits any doctor or health care professional, whether in private practice or employed by the state, from providing infertility services to any unmarried person within the State of Wazoo." The question asks students to address both equal protection and substantive due process claims.
The second question involves an African-American mayor considering two affirmative action policies - one regarding city contracts and the other involving the hiring of firefighters and the civil service examination. This question specifically asks students to argue both sides, provide a considered conclusion, and to "feel free to present to the Mayor any broader policy issues or theories of racial justice that are raised by his plan and/or the referendum."
The full exam is here. The feedback, here, is twelve pages and in the form of a discussion rather than a checklist or model answer. It was an open book examination and students had six hours, although as the instructions assert: "The exam is designed, however, to be completed in approximately three hours. Feel free to use the extra three hours as you wish (anxiously flipping through the casebook for that one last citation, or heading over to the gym for a good workout - your choice)."
Thanks to Alana Chazan, class of 2009 CUNY School of Law, for these documents, which are from the NYT blog from July 2008 here, along with other exams and syllabi and comments from conlawprofs. And yes, it did make me look for the exam I gave and the feedback from 1996, although I am about to admit defeat unless I can find a floppy disk reader!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Or so I once said, in an interview: “It was the summer of 1992, the last summer of the Reagan-Bush regime, although the demise of that era was far from certain. I was being interviewed by a gay and lesbian magazine for a feature article about the Supreme Court. I was staying in Provincetown, a place renowned for its lesbian/gay culture, surrounded by lesbians of every ilk. . . . when the interviewer asked me a general question about changing the United States Supreme Court, I replied that we should start with the appointment of a lesbian. My proposal, glib as a Provincetown summer, implicitly asserts lesbianism would be a relevant quality of a United States Supreme Court Justice.”
The specter of a lesbian Supreme Court Justice raises an issue that has troubled lesbian and political theory, the issue of identity politics. The rest of the article, The Specter of a Lesbian Supreme Court Justice: Problems of Identity in Lesbian Legal Theorizing, 5 St. Thomas Law Review 433 - 458 (1993), analyzes identity politics circa 1992.
Now, seventeen years later, identity politics remains an issue and at least two lesbians are thought to be contenders for the Court. The story has been buzzing around for a while, it makes its appearance on Politico here:
Sullivan is former dean at Stanford and teaches Constitutional Law.
Karlan is a former clerk to Justice Blackmun and Director of Stanford's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.
POLTICO also reports that ”in response to questions from POLITICO in recent days, White House aides declined to say whether sexual orientation was among the diversity factors the president planned to consider either with respect to a Supreme Court nominee, or judicial nominees more generally."
Appointed to the Circuit by George W Bush is 2002, McConnell was frequently mentioned as a possible nominee for the United States Supreme Court.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Mary Dunlap, The Constitutional Rights of Sexual Minorities: A Crisis of the Male/Female Dichotomy, 30 Hastings L. J. 1131, 1148-49 (1979).
Turning to the work of Mary Dunlap (1949 - 2003), the pioneering law professor and litigator, seems appropriate the day after the Iowa Supreme Court's opinion in Varum v. Brien (our most recent post here) and as the California Supreme Court continues to deliberate on the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8 (our most recent post here). Dunlap did not live to see the United States Supreme Court overturn Bowers v. Hardwick, a case she called a "grievous loss," and it is difficult not to wonder what she would think about post-Lawrence developments, especially in the area of state constitutional opinions finding same-sex marriage prohibitions unconstitutional. It is easy, of course, to assume she would have been overjoyed. However, it is also possible to imagine the ways in which she might criticize constitutional doctrine for continuing to reify the "present paradigm of two sexes" or to regulate sexual freedom.
Indeed, the entire volume of the Hastings Law Journal issue in which Dunlap's piece appears invites reflection. Published in March 1979, it is entitled "Sexual Preference and Gender Identity: A Symposium," with a full page dedication to Harvey Milk, 1930 - 1978, complete with a large photo of the murdered San Francisco Board of Supervisors member. The volume opens with the classic article by another pioneering law professor - - - Rhonda Rivera, entitled "Our Straight-Laced Judges: The Legal Position of Homosexual Persons in the United States," and also includes an article by constitutional scholar David A.J. Richards (now at NYU), entitled "Sexual Autonomy and the Constitutional Right to Privacy: A Case Study in Human Rights and the Unwritten Constitution."
While many of the specific doctrinal issues discussed in these articles may seem dated, the theoretical perspectives and constitutional arguments remain current. These articles from 1979 can be difficult to find in electronic copy, but are worth a trip to a law library's shelves.
April 4, 2009 in Fundamental Rights, Gender, Interpretation, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Scholarship, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, State Constitutional Law, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)