Thursday, June 18, 2020

George Floyd's Human Rights

Cross-posted from the Human Rights at Home blog


The murder of George Floyd is a moral outrage that violated his human rights. Like countless Black people before him, a state agent summarily and brutally executed Mr. Floyd with no legal justification, due process, or expectation of accountability. The police officer, knowing he was on camera, acted with supreme confidence that he had the power to kill a Black man in the street. 

Americans often discuss human rights abuses as events that happen elsewhere. We are apt to discuss civil rights at home, even while we’re quick to critique other nations’ human rights abuses. This may be due to convictions about sovereignty, suspicions about international organizations, or an assumed moral superiority, but I suspect we do not look to human rights principles because we have made sure our international human rights obligations are rarely legally operable. That is, the U.S. has not consented to meaningful enforcement of international human rights laws. We have chosen to trust ourselves and to reject accountability outside our vaunted sovereignty.

Human rights arise from ineffable conscience that transcends positive law, but human rights laws codify some of those ideals in operable language. The U.S. has signed and ratified a few conventions that create international human rights law, so by ratifying them, the conventions become part of the constitutional, supreme law of the land. Notwithstanding weak enforcement mechanisms, they are law, so the U.S. must reckon with its obligations.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights founds modern iterations of human rights on a bedrock: “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Every convention enumerating human rights builds on this precept, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by the U.S. in 1994.

Under the Convention, torture means “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person . . . punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official. . . “

The state obligation is “to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture.” “Each State Party shall ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel . . .  who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.”

These rights are non-derogable, and “[s]tates parties are obligated to eliminate any legal or other obstacles that impede the eradication of torture and ill-treatment; and to take positive effective measures to ensure that such conduct and any recurrences thereof are effectively prevented. . . .”

Did the Minneapolis Police violate the Convention? Have our governments done enough to eradicate torture and ill-treatment by public officials?

For nearly nine minutes after being restrained in handcuffs, a uniformed police officer ground George Floyd into the asphalt, even as Mr. Floyd begged for his life, gasped for air, called out for his mother, and stopped breathing and moving. The State of Minnesota charged the police officer with murder and the attending officers with related crimes, but, by these officers’ actions, the State very likely violated human rights law against ill-treatment. Per the Convention:

States bear international responsibility for the acts and omissions of their officials. . .  acting on behalf of the State, in conjunction with the State, under its direction or control, or otherwise under colour of law. Accordingly, each State party should prohibit, prevent and redress torture and ill-treatment in all contexts of custody or control. . . .

These abuses are common in our history, certainly no mystery to Black people. As social media and smart phones force all of us to bear witness, again and anew, they shock our collective conscience because these murders by state actors are affronts to indispensable human dignity. They always have been, but now we cannot look away, diminish or evade our collective burden to confront and eliminate them.

The state obligation is the people’s obligation. Because formal enforcement of international human rights laws is so weak, the bulwarks for human dignity are our democracy, politics, and the conscience of our people. Our governments must protect human rights. If we remain a self-governing republic, then we all bear a profound obligation to vote, speak, and govern to defend the inherent dignity of every person.   

June 18, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, June 12, 2020

Call for Papers: The Disparity Law Journal

Via Alisha Hennen:


Please find below a call for submissions for a new journal, The Disparity Law Journal,  which is being published as an imprint of the Journal of Law.


The theme for our inaugural issue is Disparity in Legal Citation. We seek to present both commentary and empirical work on the patterns we see in legal citation practice, which we understand to generally favor authors who are White men at the most highly-ranked institutions.  We are also interested in commentary on how the use of citation metrics to judge law schools may institutionalize and reify bias and discrimination. HeinOnline's ScholarRank and its work towards incorporating citation metrics into law school rankings would be just one example of the phenomenon we seek to explore in this issue.


Dates for submission:

Submit a proposal by 7/15/2020

Notification of Acceptance by 8/1/2020

Final draft due on 10/1/2020


Journal Description:

This journal, an imprint of the Journal of Law, is a periodic attempt to highlight, challenge, and address inequality and inequity in law through the publication of readable and practical articles. We welcome both scholarly and unconventional submissions on this topic. Our vision is that we will produce a place for discussions about systemic unfairness in law and law schools. Our approach to dismantling traditions of disparity provides space for all at the table.


Mission Statement: 
Disparity means the condition of being unequal. This journal is an attempt to challenge and shape the conversation about this condition in law and justice through innovative approaches to legal research, scholarship, and theory. 


Lawyers, judges, law professors, law school staff, law librarians, law students. Specifically, those who have been or continue to be disenfranchised in the law or by the American legal academy and have innovative ideas to reform, grow, change and shape the future of legal education and the legal profession.


Length of articles:

No more than 18k. Preference for shorter, readable works.


Type of author:

We accept articles from anyone interested in furthering scholarship on disenfranchisement and disparity in legal academia and the US legal system.


Original works or reprints:

We welcome original works and reprints.


Editorial Board:

Ana Isabel Delgado Valentin, Suffolk University Law School

Nicole P. Dyszlewski, Roger Williams University School of Law

Alisha Hennen, Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Rebecca Sherman, United States Courts for the 9th Circuit

Genevieve B. Tung, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School


Submissions and questions can be sent to Alisha Hennen at [email protected]

June 12, 2020 in RFP, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Statement by Members of the Faculty at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law

This week, many of our faculty at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law signed a statement of mourning and commitment to confront racism and racial injustice in our work, teaching, school, and legal systems. It gathered broad support from across the diversities of our faculty - races, genders, generations, faiths, parties, and faculty statuses.

I add this note personally; this statement is the least we can do. We will and must advance these principles and commitments in real, transformative, critical, and bold work to combat racism and racial injustice in our lives, school, communities, laws, and the justice system.

I ask our students, alumni, clients, colleagues, and communities to hold us accountable to these commitments.


We, the undersigned faculty members of Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, stand united in the national mourning of the death of George Floyd. As Pepperdine University President James Gash has declared, “[t]he tragic killing of George Floyd has brought into sharp focus again the need for action to eradicate racism and to right the wrongs of centuries of oppression of Black people in our nation. … I stand with you believing all forms of racial violence or oppression are abhorrent and that we need to be agents of change. … God calls us and empowers us to be instruments of justice and to actively oppose racism in every form, and especially right now against our Black brothers and sisters.”


As legal educators and members of the legal profession, we wish to join in declaring our firm support of these principles, particularly with respect to the administration of criminal justice and law enforcement throughout America. As Dean Paul Caron has emphasized in his recent letter to the Pepperdine community, “The Caruso School of Law embraces our responsibility to address systemic injustices in our society. Our mission is to provide our students with the tools they need to become future leaders who will effect positive change in the world.”


As faculty at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, we recommit to the principles of diversity, of equity (so that each member of our community is treated fairly), and of inclusion (so that every member of the community will know that they belong). We also recommit to serving the student body with fairness, justice, and equality, while empowering our students to use their legal education to lead the change that we seek in our country. As legal educators at a faith-based institution, we remember the prophet Micah’s call in Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” We are committed and compelled to act now in fulfilling the call for justice in our country and to listen to the voices of the Black community as we seek to eradicate racism in all forms.


Some faculty members prefer to express individually, by their own words and conduct, rather than by signing a letter, their commitment to racial equality and to equal justice under the law.


We encourage our fellow legal educators across the nation to commit to fostering intellectual curiosity, debate, cultural competency, human compassion, and critical thinking concerning racism in America. We also encourage them, where appropriate, to teach students and others about the ways in which pathways may be created that would allow individuals and communities to thrive, as we seek to eradicate racism and to eliminate its impact in America and globally.


June 10, 2020


Jeffrey R. Baker

Stephanie Blondell

Tom Bost

Mireille Butler

Harry Caldwell

Carol A. Chase

Robert Cochran

Jack J. Coe, Jr.

Tanya Asim Cooper

Isai Cortez

Rick Cupp

Catherine K Dodds

Selina Farrell

Chris Chambers Goodman

Naomi Goodno

Colleen Graffy

David Han

Michael Helfand

Bernard James

Kris Knaplund

Mark Kubisch

Barry McDonald

Gregory S. McNeal

Anthony Miller

Grant S. Nelson

Alan Tzvika Nissel

Sarah M. Nissel

Greg Ogden

Brittany Stringfellow Otey

Robert G Popovich

Peter Robinson

Shelley Ross Saxer

Mark Scarberry

Steve Schultz

Victoria Schwartz

Sukhsimranjit Singh

Tom Stipanowich

Ahmed Taha

Peter Wendel

Maureen Weston

Stephanie R. Williams

Tiffany M. Williams

June 11, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)