Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Stop Traffic: Using Expert Witnesses to Disrupt Intersectional Vulnerability in Sex Trafficking Prosecutions

Robert E. Harding, Jr. Associate Law Professor Blanche Cooke (University of Kentucky) addresses sexual trafficking cases  in her latest law review article, "Stop Traffic: Using Expert Witnesses to Disrupt Intersectional Vulnerability in Sex Trafficking Prosecutions," 24 Berkeley J. Crim. L. 147 (2019). Her work can be used in discussions about sexualized violence in the classroom and with respect to prosecutions. The piece makes the case for the use of expert witnesses in sex trafficking prosecutions. Below is the abstract of the work:

Sex trafficking thrives on intersectional inequality and reinforcing layers of vulnerability. Sex trafficking exists on a continuum of sexualized violence, from microaggressive sexual harassment to macroaggressive gang rapes, all of which create vulnerability in the victim and perfect sovereignty in the perpetrator. Sexualized violence performs power, as it is raced, classed, and gendered. Power not only requires performance, but it necessitates repetitive reenactments of domination in order to normalize its compulsive and pathological nature. Lynchings, police shootings, gang rapes, and sex trafficking are all performances of power on vulnerable bodies through which power perfects itself. The same inequality that creates the necessary preconditions for vulnerability to violence in the first instance, also obfuscates or masks power’s pathology and compulsivity in the investigative and adjudicative processes. By way of illustration, victim blaming renders the pathology of the perpetrator invisible because it removes accountability from the perpetrator and shifts blame onto the victim. Shifting blame onto the victim obfuscates or hides power’s omnipresence, compulsiveness, and pathology. The victim blaming process is pervasive, systemic, and entrenched. Without proper interventions, sex trafficking cases can become ritualized spectacle, where sexualized violence as well as its accompanying investigation and adjudication convince the factfinder of the pathology of the victim and the sovereignty of the perpetrator. The pathology that surrounds victims of sexualized violence adversely impacts their credibility and extends narratives about male entitlement to vulnerable bodies. The recent cases involving R. Kelly and Cyntoia Brown illustrate these points. In the case of singer, song writer Kelly, his videotaping sex with an underaged black female resulted in an acquittal.

August 20, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 19, 2019

U.S. Leadership Needed on Syrian Refugee Crisis


Sixty percent of Syria’s population are either refugees or internally displaced.  Of those thirteen million Syrians, nearly six million are refugees who fled to neighboring Middle Eastern nations—five times more than the one million in Europe and the U.S.  Unable to return home and with minimal, if any, access to education, jobs, and health care in host countries; Syrian refugees are trapped in a legal and economic purgatory.

The challenge facing the international community is whether it will stand by and watch as a generation of Syrians is lost to illiteracy, malnutrition, and increased mortality; or meet its obligations to do its part in empowering Syrians to be gainfully employed and educated until they can return home.

Turkey, with 3.5 million Syrian refugees, hosts the largest Syrian refugee population. The smaller countries of Lebanon and Jordan each host the two largest refugee populations per capita. Although these two countries comprise just one percent of the world’s economy, they host nearly 20 percent of the world’s refugees.  Jordan alone has between 666,000 and 1.3 million Syrian refugees. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees approximately one in fifteen people in Jordan is a registered refugee.

The principle of non-refoulement—a legal norm prohibiting host nations from sending refugees back to countries where their lives are in danger— requires host countries to provide refuge to Syrians until it is safe for them to return home.  The United Nations says return to Syria is still not safe; nor will it be for the foreseeable future.  In the few areas where a safe return may be possible, entire neighborhoods are demolished, and basic services are non-existent.

Approximately eighty percent of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries live in urban and rural areas among the natives of the host countries. Between sixty to eighty percent of these refugees, depending on the country, live below the poverty line

The consequences are threefold: 1) a humanitarian crisis for Syrian refugees, who must compete for public services and limited jobs (most of them without legal authorization) with members of the host community; 2) further pressure on host country economies already strained by longstanding economic problems; and 3) social tensions between refugees, host citizens, and other vulnerable groups within the host country. 

In light of the United States’ interests in the Middle East, it is long overdue for Congress to reform our Syrian refugee policy.  A new report by the Rutgers Center for Security, Race and Rights offers policy prescriptions for the United States to provide aid to host countries that is both sustainable and empowers Syrians to be economically independent.  Based on interviews with refugees, aid workers, and government officials in Jordan, the report makes four recommendations.

First, U.S. aid should increase to fund programs that empower refugees to be economically independent rather than indefinitely dependent on international aid.  U.S. development aid should capitalize on the diverse skills of the refugees themselves, who come from a range of socioeconomic classes. Microloans, higher education grants, and vocational training in accordance with host economies’ needs empower refugees to support themselves and their families while reducing dependency on dwindling national and international resources.  Incorporating refugees into the national economy, rather than marginalize them as welfare recipients, stimulates the economy in ways that benefit all residents of the host country

Second, development aid to refugee host countries should strengthen both state institutions and the private sector. A promising, though not flawless, model is the Jordan Compact, which is an agreement between the Jordanian government and several European and international non-state actors launched in 2016.  The Jordan Compact conditions grants on Jordan’s commitment to achieving certain goals, such as opening the formal labor market to Syrian refugees and improving access to refugee education.  As a result, the Jordanian government created a work permit program for Syrian refugees and its expansion of Jordan’s double-shift public school system to accommodate refugee children.

Third, the U.S. should fund humanitarian projects with broad eligibility criteria not limited solely to Syrian refugees. Granting access to U.S.-funded humanitarian programs to low-income citizens of the host country and refugees from other countries reduces inter-community tensions and promotes social cohesion.

Fourth, the United States should increase its own quota for Syrian refugee resettlement.  The Trump administration’s refugee ceiling for fiscal year 2019 is the lowest in the history at merely 30,000. And only 9,000 refugees can be from the “Near East and South Asia” region.  While U.S. refugee resettlement cannot replace the need for a final solution to the Syrian conflict, increasing the refugee ceiling would ease the burden on the U.S.’s allies in the region that currently shoulder most of the financial and political costs of the crisis. Moreover, by accepting its fair share of refugees, the U.S. encourages countries of first asylum to continue meeting their international obligations with regard to refugees.

If there is one key lesson from the protracted Syrian conflict, it is this: borders are meaningless when civilians flee for their lives.  Whether it is the one million refugees who trekked to Europe or the six million who escaped to neighboring countries, the crisis is global

It is time for the United States to take the lead in developing sustainable solutions to this global crisis. Congress can take the first step and reform America’s Syrian refugee policy.

-- Originally published on the Wilson Center's Enheduanna here.

-- This commentary is based on the report Toward Empowerment and Sustainability: Reforming America's Syrian Refugee Policy published by the Rutgers Center on Security, Race and Rights


August 19, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Trump's Dangerous Judicial Legacy

Rutgers Law Professor Stacy Hawkins writes how President Donald Trump is quietly whitewashing the federal judiciary with dangerous consequences for the justice system and democracy. Below is the introduction to her article, Trump's Dangerous Judicial Legacy, 67 UCLA L. Rev. Disc. (2019)

As much attention has been focused on scrutinizing President Trump’s two appointments to the United States Supreme Court, a more pervasive and insidious effort by President Trump to remake the federal judiciary has gone relatively unchallenged. Our collective obsession with the nation’s highest court and its shifting ideological balance since the retirement of longtime moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy, while important, has allowed a less notable but no less important shift to occur in the judiciary as a result of Trump’s record-setting pace of appointments to the lower federal courts. Aside from their obvious politics, most of Trump’s judicial appointees share something else in common—they are almost all white and largely male. This is no mere coincidence. It is a seemingly deliberate attempt to undo decades of diversity progress on the federal judiciary made over the course of multiple, successive presidential administrations across both political parties.

For all the handwringing over President Trump’s two appointees to the Supreme Court, the president has quietly appointed more judges to the federal appeals courts in his first two years in office than any other president in history. Given that so few cases will ever be heard by the Supreme Court, these courts often represent the highest level of appeal in our federal judicial system. In addition to being prolific, there is a striking pattern to Trump’s judicial appointees. He has broken with a decades-long presidential tradition of making the judiciary more demographically diverse than one’s political predecessor. Instead, Trump has appointed fewer minority judges to the federal bench than any president since Ronald Reagan and fewer women judges than any president since George H.W. Bush. For the first time in nearly three decades, the federal bench has actually become appreciably less diverse, even as the nation has continued to experience rapid growth in its demographic diversity. The truculence about America’s growing cultural pluralism that is reflected in Trump’s federal judicial appointments is  resonant with a central theme of his now (in)famous campaign promise. Notwithstanding the facile appeal to patriotism, there is considerable proof that what Trump really aims to do is not “Make America Great Again” so much as “Make America White Again.” At least insofar as his efforts to remake the judiciary are concerned, this “whitewashing” has grave consequences for the judiciary itself and arguably for our democracy more broadly.

Trump’s record-setting pace of federal judicial appointments have shifted the demography of the judiciary from one that was becoming increasingly more representative of the people it serves to one that is actively being made less representative of the American people. This Article first highlights this demographic shift in quantifiable terms. It then situates this judicial trend as a part of Trump’s larger political agenda and explores its consequences for the judiciary and for our ideals of democracy more broadly. (internal citations omitted)

August 13, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Constitutional Law Scholars Forum: Call for Proposals

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2020                           

Orlando, FL

The student chapter of the American Constitution Society and Law Review at Barry University School of Law and Texas A&M University School of Law are hosting the Fifth Annual Constitutional Law Scholars Forum at the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law Campus in Orlando, FL.

The Constitutional Law Scholars Forum invites scholarly proposals on constitutional law at any stage of pre-publication development, from the germination of an idea to editing with a journal.  The Forum provides an opportunity for scholars and educators to vet their work-in-progress in a welcoming, supportive environment.  (The Forum is not accepting proposals from students at this time.)

The deadline to submit proposals is December 1, 2019.

Barry University School of Law is located within close proximity to recreational activities: Universal Studios, Disney World, Epcot Center, Sea World, world class golf courses, and beaches.  Orlando offers an average temperature of 72-78°F in February/March. 

There are no conference fees and meals are provided.

Abstract Submissions:

Email proposals to Professor Eang Ngov, engov@barry.edu, with “Constitutional Law Scholars Forum” in the subject line.  Submissions should include a short abstract (300 words maximum) and biography (150 words maximum).  Please include abstract and biography together on one page in Word format.

Conference Organizers: 

Professor Eang Ngov, engov@barry.edu, office (321) 206 -5677, cell phone (571) 643-2691

Professor Meg Penrose, megpenrose@law.tamu.edu

August 6, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)