Friday, July 18, 2014

Federal District Court Rules Death Penalty Unconstitutional

This week, a Federal District Court Judge found California's death penalty unconstitutional. In the opinion, Judge Cormac Carney stated: 

"Inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the state," Carney wrote. "It has resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed."

The uncertainty and delay “violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”

While California has the nation's lowest excecution rate (13%), it has the largest Death Row (748 inmates). 

The decision is expected to inspire similar arguments in death penalty appeals around the country. 

July 18, 2014 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ALICE and PSN are Merging

Yesterday afternoon, the American Legislative Issue and Campaign Exchange (ALICE) and the Progressive States Network (PSN) announced that they are merging their organizations and efforts.  ALICE Executive Director Nick Rathod and PSN Board Chair Sen. Joe Bolkcom stated that the merger "will consolidate the collective resources, relationships and intellectual power of both organizations towards building a more cohesive, efficient and vibrant support system for progressive legislators and partner organizations across the country." 

You can read the full announcement on the ALICE website.  The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog covered the merger.

July 17, 2014 in Advocacy, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Law Student Spotlight: Michael Althauser on Juvenile Justice in Washington State

The Legislation Law Prof Blog is excited to announce a quarterly spotlight on a law student whose work in legislative advocacy, drafting, and/or policymaking warrants attention. If one of your students shows such dedication, please contact us so we can showcase the next generation of legislative and policy advocates!

The inaugural student spotlight gets kicked off today, with Michael Althauser and his work on juvenile justice in Washington State!

  Michael Althauser

Michael is a third year law student at Seattle University School of Law. During Michael's time in law school, he has dedicated his studies to public interest service. As President of Seattle University's Public Interest Law Foundation, Michael works to ensure that students at Seattle University have the tools they need to be able to assist and represent under-served communities. Michael currently works at Columbia Legal Services as a Gates Fellow for the Children and Youth Project. Prior to this work, Michael worked as a legislative extern for Columbia Legal Services, advocating on behalf of low incomes communities in the Legislature. Before coming to law school, Michael was a spokesman for the Senate Democratic Caucus in the Legislature and worked on and managed numerous political campaigns. Here's Michael's blog on juvenile justice in Washington:

WA advancing legal rights of juveniles on two fronts

Until recently, WA ranked among the worst in the nation on protecting the legal rights of abused and neglected children in the foster care system. However, a dual legislation/litigation strategy may improve WA’s rank for the better.


Until recently, WA was one of the few states in the nation lacking a law appointing attorneys to represent foster children in legal proceedings. Only a handful of WA counties guaranteed representation for foster youth in court. This led to the ironic, and sad, situation where everyone in court arguing over the best interests of a child had an attorney…except the child herself.


Following mounting public pressure brought on by a series of high-profile stories by King 5’s Suzannah Frame (here and here), the WA legislature passed SB 6126 by unanimous votes in both the House and Senate this past session. The bill requires appointment of attorneys to represent children who have not been adopted following termination of their parents’ legal rights - mainly foster care children. The bill took effect July 1, 2014.


At the same time, for the first time in WA State’s history, an appellate court ruled that failure to appoint counsel to a foster youth violated that youth’s legal rights. In the case, In re the Dependency of J.A., the court found that the interest of J.A. in having legal counsel outweighed the court’s financial arguments and concerns.

Continuing to move forward

Both these victories mark a momentous turn towards the positive for WA’s juvenile justice system. 

Congratulations, Michael!  The Legislation Law Profs Blog looks forward to continuing to celebrate the passion and vision of our students.  Please let us know a student you'd like to spotlight in the next quarterly student spotlight.


July 9, 2014 in Monthly Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Scholar Spotlight: Professor Michael Tonry

It's no secret that the American penal system is desperately broken.  For example, Michelle Alexander's compelling book, The New Jim Crow, exposed how mass incarceration targets black men and functions as a contemporary system of racial control. 

Professor Michael Tonry's new article, Remodeling American Sentencing: A Blueprint for Moving Past Mass Incarceration, offers an ambitious vision for " just, fair, and effective sentencing systems."  Tonry's article proposes a series of 10 legislative reforms to criminal sentencing to reduce mass incarceration. Some of these are quite radical - including reducing sentences of more than 5 years to just 5 years. Tonry contends that if all these proposals were enacted, the imprisonment rate would be reduced by half and yet would still remain 3-3.5 times that of other developed western countries.
Tonry's article is available here.
What do you think?  Does Tonry's blueprint help to improve America's penal system?  What other policies or proposals could help?
Do you know of new scholarship that would be of interest to subscribers of the Legislation Law Profs Blog? If so, please let us know! You can post directly to the blog in a comment or email any one of the co-editors.

July 8, 2014 in Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day from the Law Prof Blog! 

To celebrate, we've compiled some Fourth of July facts to help you impress your friends while cooking out and enjoying fireworks: 

1. Initially adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776, the revised version of the Declaration of Independence was not adopted until two days later; John Adams would think we are celebrating on the wrong date.

2. The oldest, continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States is the 4th of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island; it began in 1785.

3. The Declaration of Independence was penned by Thomas Jefferson and signed by 56 men representing 13 colonies.

4. One of the United States’ patriotic songs, “Yankee Doodle” was originally sung by British military officers prior to the Revolution as a means to mock the disorganized American colonists who fought alongside them during the French and Indian Wars.

5. The Fourth of July didn't become a legal federal holiday until 1938. 

6. The “Star Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 and not decreed the official national anthem of the United States until 1931.

7. Three U.S. Presidents, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, died on July 4th; Adams and Jefferson died within hours of each other in 1826 while Monroe died in 1831.

8. There is a message written upside down at the bottom of the of the Declaration of Independence: “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” It’s not known who wrote it or when. Since parchment was usually rolled up during the Revolutionary War years, it’s thought this memo served as a label.

9. The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence.

10. Both the Philippines and Rwanda celebrate July 4th as a day of liberation. In Southeast Asia, it is known as “Republic Day” and Rwandans celebrate “Liberation Day.” In Europe, Denmark, England, Norway, Portugal and Sweden celerbate as well. 

11. The famous Nathan's Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island started after a disagreement among four immigrants over who was the most patriotic. Americans consume about 155 million hot dogs on Independence Day alone; it is the biggest hot dog holiday of the year.

12. Two of our nation’s great national symbols were made overseas. The Liberty Bell was cast in England, and the Statue of Liberty in France.

13. Americans began observing the Fourth of July as early as 1777, when the first-ever major celebration in Philadelphia included a parade and a thirteen-shot cannon salute and fireworks.

14. To avoid cracking it, the Liberty Bell has not been rung since 1846. To mark the day, every fourth of July it is symbolically tapped 13 times, in honor of the 13 original colonies. 

15. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are responsible for the bald eagle as the national bird; Benjamin Franklin wanted it to be the turkey.



July 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Opportunity of the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act: How it Came to be and How Universities Can Ensure it Creates Social Change

Joining the Legislation Law Prof Blog to discuss the passage of the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act are Rene Heybach, Jennifer Cushman, and Graham Bowman from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. 

The Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act (Homeless Bill of Rights) is the second state law passed in the nation to safeguard persons experiencing homelessness against discrimination in both the private and public arena due to the fact that they lack a consistent place to call home.

Disadvantaged and vulnerable people are discriminated against every day. However, there are few remedies available to the victim when the basis for the discrimination is not prohibited by the courts or legislature. The Homeless Bill of Rights states that “No person’s rights, privileges, or access to public services may be denied or abridged solely because he or she is homeless.”  By prohibiting such discrimination, individuals in Illinois now have a private right of action to sue both private individuals and state agencies that discriminate against them because they are homeless. 

In addition, the Homeless Bill of Rights enumerates a number of rights afforded to individuals experiencing homelessness. Among those are the right to use and move freely in public spaces; the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her personal property; and the right to equal treatment by all state and municipal agencies.

Passing Illinois Bill or Rights for the Homeless Act required context, opportunity, and negotiation.

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has a long history of advocating for the de-criminalization of homelessness and recently worked with Loyola Law School’s Health Justice Project on a comprehensive student-led study of the criminalization of homelessness in the spring of 2012.

During the spring of 2013, there was significant national media around the criminalization of homelessness and the response of the homeless advocacy community was gaining momentum – Rhode Island had already passed a Homelessness Bill of Rights and two other states were actively pursuing legislation. The atmosphere was ripe for legislation.

An Illinois state Senator initiated the legislation early in the session without the prompting of advocates, which meant that we did not have time to build community support ahead of time. At the same time, a similar bill was introduced in California that was receiving a significant amount backlash in the national media. Given this context, we decided to pursue a “quiet” course of advocacy as the members of the Illinois General Assembly largely focused on a number of other large high-profile issues.

Despite our efforts to keep the bill politically neutral, it still lacked necessary Republican support. However, when widespread flooding in downstate Illinois and suburban Cook County mid-session caused rural and middle class families to lose their homes, we used this opportunity to help more conservative legislators to relate to the issue of homelessness, particularly around the right to non-discrimination in maintaining employment. This aspect of the law was already on the books in Cook County and we argued that it should be extended to the rest of the state. Though, a couple of sticking points remained, including adding “homeless” as a protected class under the Illinois Human Rights Act. Not letting perfect be the enemy of good, we negotiated to amend the bill and ended up with a “feel good” bill with bi-partisan support that an influential Republican even spoke in support of on the Senate floor.

However, legislation does not automatically translate into social change.

Universities can play a unique proactive role in ensuring the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act is enforced by developing model policies that could be implemented by public and private entities to ensure that they are in compliance with the law. Law students and faculty could raise additional awareness and understanding of the rights of individuals experiencing homelessness by writing law review articles about the Homeless Bill of Rights and incorporating it into law school curriculum on individual rights. Universities can also partner with advocacy organizations on comprehensive research projects, like the one between the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Health Justice Project, to create resources that can assist advocates and allies deepen their understanding of laws and policies that affect homelessness and other vulnerable populations.

For more information about the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, visit

Rene Heybach is Senior Counsel at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

Jennifer Cushman is a Policy Specialist at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. 

Graham Bowman is an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. 


July 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Supreme Court Rules in Hobby Lobby Case

Yesterday the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned craft supply store, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Store, a Mennonite-owned wood manufacturer, challenged the federal contraception mandate, arguing that the requirement to pay for methods of contraception they find to be in opposition to their religious views is a violation of their religious freedom. 

The Court agreed.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that requiring closely held corporations to provide female employees with no-cost contraception is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

To read the holding and the dissent, visit here.

For highlights from Justice Ginsburg’s dissent, visit here. 

For more coverage on the Hobby Lobby decision, read the following article.

July 1, 2014 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Experts Needed to Review an Anti-discrimination Legislation Proposal for Jamaica

From the ABA Section on International Law:  This memorandum is to notify you that the ABA-UNDP International Legal Resource Center (ILRC) has received a request from UNDP/Jamaica for multiple of experts to review an Anti-discrimination Legislation Proposal for Jamaica. UNDP/Jamaica through its HIV and the Law project continues to build capacity for the reform of HIV related laws and policies in Jamaica. One area identified as a priority gap by national stakeholders during consultations was the absence of broad based Anti-discrimination. A draft antidiscrimination proposal was developed in 2005 the focus was on a project to initiate the development of anti-discrimination legislation. As a result of developments which have taken place in the landscape a new proposal will be required.


The focus of the new proposal to be on 1) why there is a need for antidiscrimination legislation using the evidence from the legal assessment conducted by UNDP in 2013 and 2) the key content that should be covered by the legislation with emphasis on the positive impact that it would have on enshrining human rights into the legal framework. The intended target of the proposal will be government ministers, senior policy makers and legal draftsmen. The proposal needs to show them how this piece of legislation can benefit not only the rights of populations vulnerable to HIV but other key groups like the disabled, poor, women and children.


SELECTION CRITERIA: The ILRC is looking for multiple experts. This is a pro bono home based opportunity. Experts must be available on an intermittent, part-time basis for at least 4-6 weeks to work on this project. This is to account for the time lag between correspondence with the UNDP office, their local partners, and the ILRC as well as also being mindful that you have a full time job and are working on this project in your spare time. It will be important to be available via email and perhaps phone/Skype as well if needed. Experts will work remotely from their home base and will receive the documents to be reviewed via email and return comments and recommendations via email within the specified timeframe. The ILRC will compile all the comments and recommendations into one comprehensive report for UNDP/Jamaica and their local partners to review. We expect to begin this project in early July.


S/he must have: • An advanced degree in Law, or relevant degree in the field of Human Rights Law, Law and Health, Law and Development or other related area • Knowledge of Commonwealth legal and parliamentary systems • At least 6 years of experience in Human Rights or Discrimination law • Solid experience in legislative reform, drafting legislation, and policy development in a common law environment • A good understanding of legal drafting • International experience, as well as knowledge and experience in the Caribbean and an understanding of the Jamaican context is a plus • Excellent analytical and drafting skills with the ability to deal with a range of complex legal issues • Experience in multiple jurisdictions is a plus • Experience with UNDP or another UN agency and familiarity with UN/UNDP field operations is a plus • Fluency in written and oral English We would be most appreciative if you would review and determine whether you, anyone you know or any organization with which you are affiliated may have any knowledge of experts who might be good candidates. Experts do not have to be a member of the Section or the ABA.


The deadline for expressions of interest is July 4th, 2014. Expressions of interest must include CVs and a short cover letter expressing related and relevant experience. Incomplete expressions of interest will not be considered.


As always, we appreciate your assistance and please do not hesitate to contact us for more information or if you have any questions. Please email all expressions of interest to


Best, Jacqueline Jacqueline Gichinga Senior International Program Associate American Bar Association, Section of International Law ABA-UNDP International Legal Resource Center (ILRC) 1050 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite 400 Washington, DC 20036 T: +1-202-662-1662 Skype: jgichinga

June 30, 2014 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Advocacy: New Report from The Sentencing Project Regarding State Legislative Responses to Miller

Interesting new report from The Sentencing Project on states’ (slow) legislative response to the Supreme Court's 2012 Miller ruling prohibiting mandatory LWOP sentencing schemes for juveniles.  From the Report:

Two years have passed since the Supreme Court, on June 25, 2012, ruled that juveniles cannot be automatically sentenced to life without a chance at parole, striking down laws in 28 states.  A majority of the states[--Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, South Vermont, Virginia--]have not yet passed any statutory reform.  Of the states that have done so, many require decades-long minimum sentences and few have applied the changes retroactively.


June 26, 2014 in Advocacy | Permalink | Comments (0)

After Shelby County

The landmark case of Shelby v. Holder continues to provoke criticism for its impact on discrimination in voting rights. In a new article, Christopher Elmendorf (UC Davis) and Douglas Spencer (U Conn), offer new hope. Here’s the abstract and link to After Shelby County: Getting Section 2 of the VRA to Do the Work of Section 5:

Abstract:  Until the Supreme Court put an end to it in Shelby County v. Holder, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was widely regarded as an effective, low-cost tool for blocking potentially discriminatory changes in election law and administration. The provision the Supreme Court left standing, Section 2, is generally seen as expensive, cumbersome and almost wholly ineffective at blocking changes before they take effect. This paper argues that the courts, in partnership with the Department of Justice, could reform Section 2 so that it fills much of the gap left by the Supreme Court’s evisceration of Section 5. The proposed reformation of Section 2 rests on two insights: first, that national survey data often contains as much or more information than precinct-level vote margins about the core factual matters in Section 2 cases; second, that the courts have authority to create rebuttable presumptions to regularize Section 2 adjudication. Section 2 cases currently turn on costly, case-specific data and estimates. Judicial decisions provide little guidance about how future cases, relying on different data, are likely to be resolved. By creating evidentiary presumptions whose application in any given case would be determined using national survey data and statistical models, the courts could greatly reduce the cost and uncertainty of Section 2 litigation. This would also end the dependence of vote-dilution claims on often-unreliable techniques of ecological inference, and would make coalitional claims brought jointly by two or more minority groups much easier to litigate.

SSRN link:  After Shelby County

Do you know of new scholarship that would be of interest to subscribers of the Legislation Law Profs Blog? If so, please let us know! You can post directly to the blog in a comment or email any one of the co-editors.

June 26, 2014 in Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spotlighting new scholarship

Do you know of new scholarship that would be of interest to subscribers of the Legislation Law Profs Blog? If so, please let us know! You can post directly to the blog in a comment or email any one of the co-editors.

June 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Adding the Homeless to Hate Crime Legislation

My scholarly and advocacy work focuses on legal and policy issues affecting homeless men, women, and children.  One of these issues is the need to include homeless people in hate crime legislation.  Last year, I wrote an article entitled, Invidious Deliberation:  The Problem of Congressional Bias in Federal Hate Crime Legislation, which exposed the legacy of Congress’s own “unrecognized” bias against the homeless and determined this bias helps to exclude the homeless from hate crime protection.  You can read more of my analysis by linking to a copy of Invidious Deliberation here.

The fight to include homeless people in hate crime legislation is back in front of Congress.  Today, as I write this post, Susan Sarandon joins NCH and other advocates to brief Congress on the need to add homeless people to hate crime legislation.  Sarandon Announcement Here.  Sarandon is one of many circulating a petition to the same effect; if you are interested, you can sign on to the petition here

According to a press release yesterday from the National Coalition for the Homeless:

Over the past 15 years, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) has documented more 1,400 acts of violence against people experiencing homelessness committed by housed perpetrators. As ‘housing status’ is not a protected class under hate crimes legislation, this is the only existing count of these horrific incidents. In 2013, 109 attacks were reported, 18 of which resulted in the death of a homeless individual. This represents an increase of 23 percent in the total number of attacks from the previous year and a 30 percent increase in non-lethal attacks.  Homeless individuals are particularly vulnerable to attacks for many reasons, one of which is sheer exposure. One often takes for granted the safety that a home affords, but for many people living on the streets, it can be difficult to avoid being victimized.  Download HateCrimePressRelease.

NCH's detailed annual report of hate crimes committed against homeless Americans can be found   here. If you have a chance, please tune in to the Congressional briefing; you can always weigh in on this important topic on our blog. 

June 25, 2014 in Advocacy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Guest Blog: Professor Evan Zoldan on Statutory Interpretation in the Supreme Court

As part of our occasional feature of guest blogs, Professor Evan Zoldan submits a thoughtful entry on statutory interpretation in the Supreme Court.  Evan C. Zoldan is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Toledo College of Law.  He teaches and writes in the areas of Legislation and Regulated Industries.  Professor Zoldan's scholarship can be found at

Evan Zoldan

Statutory Interpretation in the Supreme Court

In its much-anticipated Bond decision, the Supreme Court avoided what many believed to be the key issue before the Court, that is, the scope of Congress’s constitutional authority to enact a statute in order to implement a valid treaty.  Instead, the Court rested on statutory grounds, holding that the statute under which Bond was charged did not reach the conduct she committed.  Although a disappointment for those anticipating an opinion clarifying or modifying the longstanding Missouri v. Holland doctrine, Bond provides a textbook example of the continuing power of clear statement rules.

Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Roberts reiterated that there are “certain unexpressed presumptions” against which Congress legislates.  One of these presumptions, wrote Roberts, is the principle of federalism, that is, the federal-state balance of authority.  Courts may use the principle of federalism to resolve ambiguous statutes.  Only if Congress gives a “clear indication” that it intends to upset the traditional state-federal balance will the Court read a statute to do so.  The Court held that the statute at issue did not contain a “clear statement” that Congress intended to reach local criminal conduct and, as a result, the Court would not interpret the statute to extend that far.

Justice Scalia, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, took issue with Roberts’ characterization of the statute as ambiguous.  Scalia opined that the text was clear and criticized the Court for finding ambiguity in the statute because a plain reading of the text would lead to a disruption of the state-federal balance.  Scalia would have read the statute to include Bond’s conduct and addressed the constitutional issue directly.

Scalia’s criticism, that Bond represents a departure from standard modes of statutory interpretation, does not ring true; Roberts does nothing unusual when he uses material outside of the text of a statute, including a statutory presumption, to find ambiguity.  Indeed, Scalia himself did something quite similar in Vermont Agency of Natural Resources v. United States ex rel. Stevens, 529 U.S. 765 (2000).  Ultimately, Bond does not break much new doctrinal ground; it does, however, reaffirm the continuing power of clear statement rules to assist in statutory interpretation and to help the Court avoid thorny constitutional questions.

But, the above-mentioned fight over statutory interpretation should not obscure the real import of Bond.  By siding with Bond, Roberts successfully found a majority to agree to an opinion with expansive language on the importance of federalism; the language planted in Bond will be ripe for picking by future courts seeking to limit federal authority on federalism grounds.  Although the Court dodged the treaty question for now, we likely have not seen the last of Bond’s federalism language.


June 23, 2014 in Advocacy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 20, 2014

9th Circuit Strikes Down LA Anti-Homeless Ordinance as Unconstitutional

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit found unconstitutional a Los Angeles law that prevents people from sleeping in their cars as a form of basic emergency shelter, when the City has offered them no other housing option. The decision has important implications for ordinances that criminalize homelessness, which are becoming increasingly popular around the nation. For more on this exciting decision, see the press release from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty here.

June 20, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interested in social justice? Want to present in Las Vegas this fall?

You may have seen a call for proposals for the Society of American Law Teacher (SALT) Teaching Conference already--- but there's some exciting new developments.  Of particular note is (1) the extended deadline for submissions; (2) the emphasis that folks may submit proposals that relate to social justice more broadly even if they fall outside of the conference theme; and (3) the announcement that presenters may submit papers for publication in either the Nevada Law Journal or the Journal of Legal Education.  Read more below:

Please consider submitting a proposal to present at the SALT Teaching Conference, Legal Education in a Time of Change:  Challenges and Opportunities.  SALT welcomes a broad range of presentations at the Teaching Conference, and encourages proposals even if they do not fall squarely within the conference theme.  The full conference description and the link to submit proposals are below. 

The deadline is extended until June 30, 2014, but proposals submitted by the original deadline (June 20, 2014) will receive a decision from the Planning Committee before June 30.  Other proposals should expect a decision by mid- to late-July.


Additionally, the Nevada Law Journal and the Journal of Legal Education will separately publish selections of the papers from the Teaching Conference in the 2015-2016 Academic Year.   More information about the submissions process will be posted in the fall at the link below and on

Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) Teaching Conference

Legal Education in a Time of Change: Challenges and Opportunities

Friday and Saturday, October 10-11, 2014 at theUniversity of Nevada, Las Vegas, Boyd School of Law

Call for Presentations and Papers

Debates over the value of a legal education rage in blogs, in the comment sections across the Internet, and even at faculty meetings in law schools.  Although self-examination is a necessary component of any reform in legal education, this critique, often shouted in hyperbolic terms, is discouraging many progressive students from even considering law as a career.

SALT recognizes the importance of increasing access to legal education, especially as income inequality increases, as resegregation impacts public schools and communities, and government becomes more polarized.  SALT remains deeply committed to ensuring that membership in the legal profession reflects the rich diversity of this country, that we engage students throughout law school with relevant and innovative teaching methodologies, and that the academy itself be inclusive and model civil society by building consensus and community.

As we go through these transformational times, we invite you to help envision what law school can and should be.  SALT seeks to reframe this polarized debate about the value of a legal education, rejuvenate legal education, and reform the profession to ensure its path towards social justice and access to legal services for all. 

SALT welcomes a broad range of presentations, particularly those that incorporate the conference theme.  The following questions are illustrative of just some of the issues that could be addressed:

  • How do we ensure that there is a next generation of lawyers and law professors who are committed to social justice? 
  • How will we attract and guide progressive, diverse students who can bring their varied perspectives to define justice, fairness, equality, and democracy in a global age?
  • How and what do we teach to promote the use of law to build consensus and community to solve economic, social, political, environmental, and global issues that perpetuate inequality and exclusion? 
  • How does the current legal education crisis operate within the context of the neoliberal university?
  • How do we contribute to the legacy of how law can and should be used to define civil democracy and global responsibility?
  • How do we help transform the practice of law so that students can engage in careers that are personally and socially rewarding? 
  • How do we unite scholars of doctrine and practice in our common goals of developing the law and its underlying legal theory toward justice?


Please use the link below to get a username and password to submit a proposal before Monday, June 30, 2014.  If you are part of a multi-person proposal, please designate one person to submit the proposal on behalf of your group.  If you have questions about the conference, please contact one of the conference co-chairs:  Sara Rankin at or Kim D. Chanbonpin at  If you have questions about the online submission process, please contact SALT Coordinator, Blake Johnson at

Submission Instructions: Click here.

Presentations at the Teaching Conference will occur in one of three different venues.  In addition to the conventional panel presentation, the conference will feature Presentation Forums and Roundtable Forums.  These are detailed in the Submissions Instructions link, above:

The Presentation Forum is a specially-designated 60-minute time slot that does not compete with any other concurrent session.  The Presentation Forum is a single venue for multiple presenters to engage in focused, in-depth, and intimate conversations with conference participants.  Each presenter will be provided their own table or counter space in the forum venue.  Although this venue is more casual in nature, like a conventional poster presentation, presenters can utilize audio-visual demonstrations and handouts, use interactive exercises, or simply engage participants in focused discussions on their presentation topic.  Conference participants can walk around the venue and “sample” various presentations during the designated time slots.  This vibrant and dynamic format will increase exposure to the expertise and ideas of various presenters and will allow for greater interaction among participants.

The Roundtable Forum features several focused roundtable discussions held in a single venue.  A roundtable is a facilitated discussion that gives each participant the maximum amount of group input on a given subject of common interest.   Each roundtable will focus on a general theme (such as “Critical Race & Identity” or “Civil Procedure & Social Justice”) and will be facilitated by 1-2 designated facilitators.  After the facilitators provide short introductory remarks, the roundtable proceeds as the facilitators guide the discussion, asking participants to share their thoughts and experiences.  Roundtable forums are suitable for both fully-developed papers as well as works-in-progress.

June 20, 2014 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 16, 2014

We hope to see you at the ACS Convention!

Here's a friendly reminder that later this week the 2014 ACS National Convention will take place in Washington, DC.  If you're attending, we encourage you to check out the plenary panel at 2pm on Friday June 20th, Beyond a Broken Beltway: State Courts, Legislatures and Cities as Venues for Progressive Change, featuring ALICE's Nick Rathod talking about developments in state and local policy.

Here's the panel description:

State courts, legislatures and municipal governments are becoming increasingly important forums for achieving progressive change as obstruction in Congress and the Supreme Court’s conservative majority make action difficult at the federal level. State courts play a vital role shaping the law on voting rights, criminal justice, environmental and human rights issues, and often have the last word on who votes and wins elections, goes to jail or faces the death penalty, drinks clean water and can get married. State legislatures and municipal governments also are leading the way in promoting economic equality via increases in the minimum wage and other innovative approaches. But the same forces blocking progress at the federal level also pose threats at the state and local level. Almost all state court judges stand for election, and after Citizens United, waves of special interest money have flooded into those elections, threatening the fairness and impartiality of state courts. The American Legislative Exchange Council controls a lavishly funded network of state legislators dedicated to turning back the clock at the state and local level. This panel will examine opportunities and challenges presented by these efforts to achieve progress beyond the Beltway and how progressives can play an active role in the struggle. 



Dennis Herrera, City Attorney, San Francisco 

Scott Lemieux, Professor of Political Science, The College of St. Rose 

Nick Rathod, Executive Director, American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange (ALICE) 

Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) 

Joanna Shepherd, Associate Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law 

Jo-Ann Wallace, President and CEO, National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) 

Maya Wiley, Counsel to the Mayor, City of New York

Also, check the full convention program for talks by Ohio state representative Kathleen Clyde; Keenan R. Keller, Senior Democratic Counsel for the House Judiciary Committee; and Gabe Rottman, who is Legislative Counsel and Policy Advisor at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office.

If you're going to the convention, be sure to stop by the ALICE Happy Hour on Friday, June 20th from 6-8pm. We’ll be at PJ Clarke’s, 1600 K Street NW.  We’ll have drinks and light food on hand, and we'd love to meet you or catch up.  Join us!

June 16, 2014 in Advocacy, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 13, 2014

You and SALT


As a proud member of the board for the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), I encourage you to consider getting involved in this progressive and energetic association.  Anyone can join SALT!  You can learn more about SALT's mission and activities here:

One great entree to getting involved in SALT is to participate in the biennial SALT Teaching Conference.  Please consider submitting a presentation proposal or simply attending the conference, which will be in Las Vegas on October 10-11, 2014.  The call for proposals/papers is below.


We look forward to your submission to present at the SALT Teaching Conference, Legal Education in a Time of Change:  Challenges and Opportunities.  This exciting conference will be held on Friday and Saturday, October 10-11, 2014 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Boyd School of Law--- a terrific location and time of year to be in Vegas!  The link and conference description is below.  Deadline for submissions is June 20, 2014.

June 13, 2014 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Attacks on fair housing in the U.S. House of Representatives

From our friends at the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) in D.C.:


If you have 20 minutes to spend contacting your Senators' offices this week on three important housing and civil rights issues, it will be time well spent:   


1. By just one vote, the House passed an amendment to the HUD appropriations bill (proposed by Rep Aaron Schock, R-IL) that would prohibit rents for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher families above 120% of the area-wide "fair market rent" (FMR).   This amendment would exclude low income voucher families from many low poverty communities in our most segregated metro regions.  The long-standing HUD procedure for higher "exception payment standards" has careful controls in place and has worked very well where it is needed to give families access to higher opportunity communities.


2. Less surprisingly, the House passed an amendment (Rep Paul Gosar, R-AZ) to bar funding for the anticipated "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" (AFFH) Final Rule, which was developed to help state and local jurisdictions to consider issues of racial and economic segregation in their planning process and housing and community development spending.  The proposed AFFH rule clarifies the racial integration requirements of the 1968 Fair Housing Act in a way that has drawn support from a wide spectrum of housing advocates and housing industry groups.  But in part because of the rhetoric of the Westchester County Executive (the county continues to be in non-compliance with an ongoing fair housing court order), the proposed regulation has emerged as a popular theme for conservative attacks on HUD.   See the House amendment here.   


3. Finally, the House HUD budget for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is insufficient for that division to handle the anticipated work of enforcing the new AFFH rule - indeed, it is not even sufficient to cover the fair housing division's current enforcement work (which has expanded in the Obama Administration - see our 2013 report).   Please urge your senators to increase this budget line item!


Your Senators need to hear how important these issues are - and to watch out for similar amendments to the Senate budget bill (restrictions on exception rents for voucher families and attacks on the AFFH rule).  The HUD budget bill will be taken up by the Senate sometime next week.   Contact information for your senators can be found here or you can just call 877-210-5351 and ask to be connected to your senator's office (when you're connected you can make a further request to talk to the staff person handling housing appropriations).  If you need more information on Senate staff, talking points, etc, please email Ebony Gayles at PRRAC or Jorge Soto at NFHA.




June 13, 2014 in Advocacy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Stemming Gun Violence "Down Under"

This week, I've blogged a bit about school shootings and asked what best policies might be for curtailing such violence.  One answer could come from Australia. 

[Source:  PolicyMic]:  After a mass killing in 1996 at Port Arthur where 35 people died and 20 were injured, Australia passed a comprehensive firearms act that didn't ban guns but placed logical restrictions on them. Despite having a strong frontier gun culture, Australia went from a firearms mortality rate of 2.6 in 100,000 (one-quarter the U.S. rate) in 1996 to under one in 100,000, less than a tenth of the U.S. rate.

The background: National Journal has an extensive rundown of the Australian gun law and why it was so effective, but here's the nuts and bolts.

In the wake of the 1996 shootings, support for further gun control measures swelled to 90%-95% of the population. Spearheaded by Australia's conservatives — yes, really — the laws banned rapid-firing long guns and launched an extensive gun buyback program that removed over 650,000 guns from the public. It also tightened laws and regulations surrounding their sale, registration, and storage. The whole package cost about $500 per gun and was compulsory.

As a result, some estimates say 20% of Australia's total guns were eliminated and ownership by household halved. In the U.S., a similar law would get rid of 40 million firearms.

The decreasing homicide rate in Australia declined even faster, and mass shootings stopped entirely. Before the gun laws, Australia had seen 13 mass shootings, 112 resulting deaths, and 52 injured in the previous 18 years. Australia's never seen a similar massacre since. Meanwhile, the firearms suicide rate fell dramatically from about 492 a year to 247.

You can read the entire blog entry and see some cool charts and maps on gun violence here:  What do you think?  Is reducing the number of guns a solid policy response to school shootings?  What more could or should be done?

June 11, 2014 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sign On to Include Girls and Women in My Brothers' Keeper Initiative

The following request is from Professor Kimberle Crenshaw of the African American Policy Forum, which produced the important report, Did You Know: The Plight of Black Girls & Women in America.

Dear All: 

Here is a letter from Women of Color urging the President and philanthropy to include girls and women of color in the $200 million My Brothers' Keeper initiative. We are hoping to get as many women of color to sign this as soon as possible. If you can forward this to women of color, please do. Several men who signed the 200+ statement came from sisters that knew them so we are hoping for the same in this effort. We need to get at least 200 women to sign before we go public, but it would be ideal to have twice that many.

We appreciate your support.

To sign onto the letter, click here.

For recent media coverage on the flaws with My Brothers' Keeper, click here.

June 9, 2014 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C., 20500 

Dear President Obama:

We write to join the concerns expressed by the letter from 200 Black Men about My Brother's Keeper (MBK), and to share our hopes that together, we can re-align this important Initiative to reflect the values of inclusion, equal opportunity and shared fate that have propelled our historic struggle for racial justice forward.

While we applaud the efforts on the part of the White House, private philanthropy, social justice organizations and others to move beyond colorblind approaches to race-specific problems, we are profoundly troubled about the exclusion of women and girls of color from this critical undertaking. The need to acknowledge the crisis facing boys should not come at the expense of addressing the stunted opportunities for girls who live in the same households, suffer in the same schools, and struggle to overcome a common history of limited opportunities caused by various forms of discrimination.

We simply cannot agree that the effects of these conditions on women and girls should pale to the point of invisibility, and are of such little significance that they warrant zero attention in the messaging, research and resourcing of this unprecedented Initiative. When we acknowledge that both our boys and girls struggle against the odds to succeed, and we dream about how, working together, we can develop transformative measures to help them realize their highest aspirations, we cannot rest easy on the notion that the girls must wait until another train comes for them. Not only is there no exceedingly persuasive reason not to include them, the price of such exclusion is too high and will hurt our communities and country for many generations to come.

Those who have justified the exclusive gender focus of MBK and the related Boys and Men of Color Executive Alliance ("BMOC") often remind us that male youth of color are like the miner's canary: their plight warns us that something is wrong in the mine. Indeed, something is desperately wrong when so many of our youth are falling victim to the consequences of punitive discipline, underfunded schools, poor job prospects, declining investments in public space, decreasing access to higher education, and worsening prospects in the job market.

Clearly American society continues to be a toxic environment for many of our young people. Yet male-exclusive initiatives seem to lose sight of the implications of the canary's distress: it is not a signal that only male canaries are suffering. It makes no sense to equip the canary with a mentor, a gas mask and or some other individual-level support while leaving the mine as it is and expecting the females to fend for themselves. If the air is toxic, it is toxic for everyone forced to breathe it.

The President is right that our youth need to be sent a message that they are valued, that their lives matter and that someone cares enough for them to invest time, resources and attention to confront the obstacles undermining their futures. Yet apparently, the "kids" who warrant such wide-scale investment do not include girls and young women of color. But, let this much be clear: today, many women and girls of color are under siege in the United States. The myth that they are not must be challenged. 

Our lives are disproportionately at risk, as data on violent victimizationmake clear. Native American girls are victims of rape or sexual assault at more than double the rate of other racial groups, while Black girls have the highest rates of interpersonal victimization from assault and are more likely to know their assailant than all other groups. Additionally, the homicide rate among Black girls and women ages 10-24 was higher than for any other group of females, and higher than white and Asian men as well. 

Our daughters' access to education is disproportionately compromised. Black girls are more than 3 times more likely to be suspended from school than white girls, and are disproportionately funneled through the juvenile justice systems. This is the first step in a process that leads to the over incarceration of Black women, who are 3x more likely to wind up behind bars than white women. Additionally, the four-year graduation rate for Latinas is the lowest among all girls. Dropping out of high school places all youth at risk, but the negative effects on their long term economic security is even greater for girls than it is for boys.

Our daughters' economic futures are disproportionately undermined by wage and wealth inequality. Women of color face both gender and race barriers in the job market, and typically make less than both men of color and white women. The median wealth for Latinas is $120 and for Black women it is $100 dollars, This means that just about half of Black women and Latinas are forced to walk an economic high wire without any net whatsoever. Considering that the majority of all households depend on women's wages and wealth, the economic future of female youth is vital to the community as a whole, including the sons and daughters that are dependent on their mothers' well-being.

Our daughters are ignored and under-researched. Although the exclusion of girls has been justified as data-driven, the fact is that little data is gathered on them. This situation creates a vicious cycle in which the assumptions that girls are not in crisis leads to research and policy interventions that overlook them, thus reinforcing their exclusion from efforts like MBK to bring successful programs to scale. MBK is not onlybuilt on this foundation, but extends it further by failing to require the inter-agency task force to report data that address the wellbeing of girls of color as well as boys. This erasure simply adds to the crisis that girls of color face, forcing them to suffer in relative silence.

In short, women and girls of color are not doing fine, and until they are, men and boys will not be doing fine either. 

Girls and young women must be included in all our efforts to lift up the life chances of youth of color. To those who would urge us to settle for some separate initiative, we need only recall that separate but equal has never worked in conditions of inequality, nor will it work for girls and women of color here.

To those who would urge us to take up our concerns with the White House Council on Women and Girls, we note that the Council, like many gender-focused initiatives on women, lacks an intersectional frame that would address the race-based challenges faced by young women of color in a racially-stratified society. We note as well that the scale and magnitude of the issues addressed within MBK are specific to the needs of communities of color. The White House Council on Women and Girls should of course, be encouraged and supported to do more; however, girls and women of color suffer, struggle and succeed with the men and boys in their lives. Only together will our collective well-being improve.

Moving forward, we are mindful that those who risked their lives to challenge racial injustice believed that we all deserved better lives: men as well as women, girls as well as boys. Holding up the reality of our shared fate, we call on all MBK partners--public as well as private--to expressly include women and girls of color in this historic effort. We stand ready to work together to realize the aspirations that we all share for our youth and for our community.

June 11, 2014 in Advocacy | Permalink | Comments (0)