Category: critical legal studies

Legal Services for Poor Face Growing Need and Less Funding – ProPublica

By , May 19, 2011 1:29 pm

Providers of civil legal services to the poor are having to furlough their staff, triage their clients, and turn away more people in need as a result of the congressional budget compromise reached last month. Legal services may include defending low-income individuals dealing with predatory lending, domestic violence, landlord-tenant disputes or foreclosure. As weve noted, legal experts have particularly urged to Congress to adequately fund legal services in order to alleviate the crisis of flawed foreclosures.

But far from seeing any budget increases, the umbrella nonprofit group Legal Services Corporation had its funding cut by $15.8 million—about 4 percent of its most recent budget—as a result of last months budget compromise. It was spared a $75 million cut first proposed by House Republicans.

via Legal Services for Poor Face Growing Need and Less Funding – ProPublica.

Obsolete Magazine: DISOBEY

By , November 15, 2010 9:19 am

Because of this growing disconnect between the people and their rulers, more and more citizens are choosing to practice “selective obedience”. By simply choosing not to observe certain laws, boundaries are stretched and eventually they become irrelevant. For example, many (if not most) young people in America today violate copyright laws. They download music and movies from pirate sites overseas, and most never experience any legal issues. It has become the norm. Persecuting a few poorly chosen individuals to make “examples” out of them simply makes the entertainment industry and their friends in the new Apparatchik look that much more foolish. Drug prohibition, clearly a long-standing example of the total failure of policy-making, serves only to profit the prison-industrial complex, while the vast majority of casual users continue to enjoy altering their realities un-hindered by big-brother. Speed limits? They only matter if you get caught. Taxes on barter, trade or cash payments? Yeah right.

via Obsolete Magazine: DISOBEY.

Ten Lessons from the Criminalization of Dissent

By , October 15, 2010 10:20 am

http://www.peopleofcolororganize.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/dissent.jpg

In the aftermath of the 2000 Republican National Convention, I was charged with multiple felonies and accused of assaulting several police officers, including then Philadelphia Police Chief John Timoney. I approached my case with the attitude that the only way to stop the attempts to criminalize me – and dissent in general – was to organize more effectively than the forces of the state that wanted to shove me into prison. Largely due to successful organizing strategies and community solidarity, I was acquitted after three-and-a-half years. Today, we face similar challenges and must adopt similar strategies in fighting those who wish to put our comrades behind bars and criminalize our visions.

Right now, the state is sending a message to radical environmentalists [as well as radicals and anarchists in general - MW] around the country. It is using its power in an attempt to dismantle our networks and neutralize our militancy. How will we use our power and resources to oppose this force? How are we going to frame our message? What alliances will we build to support our imprisoned comrades?

We can’t let intimidation and fear outweigh our commitment to solidarity. We need to challenge the armchair “radicals” who rationalize the conviction of our comrades as an inevitable result of state repression. Our success in achieving social and environmental victories – in this situation and all others – depends upon the ability of passionate activists to gain the support of ordinary people.

via Ten Lessons from the Criminalization of Dissent | People Of Color Organize!.

Law school faculties 40% larger than 10 years ago

By , March 12, 2010 9:46 am

The average law school increased its faculty size by 40 percent over the past 10 years, according to a study by The National Jurist to be released in late March.

This increase in staffing accounts for 48 percent of the tuition increase from 1998 to 2008, the study shows. Tuition increased by 74 percent at private schools and a 102 percent at public institutions from 1998 to 2008.

The increase in staffing does not take into account the increase in support staff, which most law school administrators acknowledge has also increased. But no reliable data is available for that.

Law school observers say the dramatic increases are related to two things — an increased need for specialization and the U.S. News & World Report rankings of law schools.

“Law schools tend to believe that their faculty reputation is driven by scholarship and they are very interested in U.S. News,” said William Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University Mauer School of Law. “Lowering your faculty-to-student ratio improves your [U.S. News] ranking and increases time for scholarship.”

Henderson said the typical teaching load has dropped from five courses a few generations ago to three courses today.

“Professors are spending less time in the classroom,” he said. “Now whether that is a smart use of a social resource is another question. It is very expensive to pay for faculty research.”

via Law school faculties 40% larger than 10 years ago | the National Jurist.

The Racialization of Crime and Punishment

By , March 4, 2010 10:11 am
I'M HUMAN
Image by gnuru via Flickr

The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has about one-quarter of its prisoners. As you noted, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Over 2.4 million persons are in state or federal prisons and jails – a rate of 751 out of every 100,000. Another 5 million are under some sort of correctional supervision such as probation or parole (PEW 2008). The US remains the last of the post-industrial so-called First World nations that still retains the death penalty, and we use it often. Nearly 3,500 inmates await execution in 35 states and at the federal level. It was not until the early 21st century that the US abolished capital punishment for juveniles and those with IQs below 70.

During the past 40 years there has been a dramatic escalation in the US prison population – a ten-fold increase since 1970. Between 1987 and 2007 alone, the prison population nearly tripled. The rate of incarceration for women escalated at an even more dramatic pace. The increased rate of incarceration can be traced almost exclusively to the War on Drugs and the rise of lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug crimes and other non-violent felonies.

A similarly repressive trend has emerged in the juvenile justice system. The juvenile justice system has shifted sharply from its original stated goals of rehabilitation and therapy, into a “second-class criminal court that provides youth with neither therapy or justice” (Feld 2007). Throughout the 1990s, the federal government and nearly all states enacted a series of legislation that criminalized a host of “gang-related activities.” This lowered the age at which juveniles could be referred to adult court, widened the net of juvenile justice, and made it easier, and even mandatory in some cases, to try juveniles as adults.

Recently scholars, educators and activists have raised concerns about the growing connection between schools and the prison industrial complex. The growing pattern of tracking students out of educational institutions, primarily via “zero tolerance” policies, and tracking them directly and/or indirectly into the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems is variously referred to as the “school to prison pipeline,” the “schoolhouse to jailhouse track,” or as younger and younger students are targeted, the “cradle to prison track” (NAACP 2005; Advancement Project 2006; Children’s Defense Fund 2007). In part, the school to prison pipeline is a consequence of schools which criminalize minor disciplinary infractions via zero tolerance policies, have a police presence at the school, and rely on suspensions and expulsions for minor infractions.

t r u t h o u t | The Racialization of Crime and Punishment.

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Liberals, the Individual Mandate, and Critical Legal Studies

By , January 4, 2010 9:54 am

Mark Tushnet

This morning’s Washington Post has a story on proposed legal challenges to the individual mandate in the pending health care legislation. (In brief, conservatives are arguing that Congress lacks the power to require people to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, under either the commerce clause and the power to tax and spend for the general welfare.) The story observes that liberal-leaning constitutional scholars think that, as Erwin Chemerinsky puts it, “There are many close constitutional questions. But this is not among them,” or, as Jack Balkin says, “All of these arguments don’t work, but they’re interesting to debate.”

I’m afraid that these reactions demonstrate that liberal-leaning constitutional law types haven’t absorbed the lessons of critical legal studies — or, indeed, the lesson Justice William Brennan taught his law clerks by holding up one hand with his fingers splayed: “With five votes you can do anything.” The CLS lesson was — and is — that where the stakes are high enough and the political energy is available (to lawyers and judges), at any time the body of legal materials contains enough stuff to support a professionally respectable argument for any legal proposition. So too with the constitutional arguments against the individual mandate.

I lack both the interest and the energy to work out the arguments in detail, but I’ve thought enough about the constitutional issues to be able to sketch out an argument, compatible with existing law, that the individual mandate (a) doesn’t fall within Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce, (b) doesn’t fall within Congress’s power to tax and spend for the general welfare, and (c) is (in its penalty aspect) a direct tax prohibited by the Constitution. I myself don’t find these arguments particularly strong, but that — on the CLS view — doesn’t mean anything about what constitutional law on this matter “really” is. If, as Holmes said and as CLS reiterated, what the law “is” is what the courts will do in fact, the thing to do is to figure out which side of the argument can count to five first.

Or, put another way, remember Bush v. Gore?

via Balkinization.

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