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Volume 23 (Winter 2018)

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Content titles below link to full text on the MLaw Scholarship Repository.



Batson for Judges, Police Officers & Teachers: Lessons in Democracy From the Jury Box by Stacy L. Hawkins

In our representative democracy we guarantee equal participation for all, but we fall short of this promise in so many domains of our civic life. From the schoolhouse, to the jailhouse, to the courthouse, racial minorities are underrepresented among key public decision-makers, such as judges, police officers, and teachers. This gap between our aspirations for representative democracy and the reality that our judges, police officers, and teachers are often woefully under-representative of the racially diverse communities they serve leaves many citizens of color wanting for the democratic guarantee of equal participation. This critical failure of our democracy threatens to undermine the legitimacy of these important civic institutions. It deepens mistrust between minority communities and the justice system and exacerbates the failures of a public education system already lacking accountability to minority students.

But there is hope for rebuilding the trust, accountability and legitimacy of these civic institutions on behalf of minority citizens. There is one place where we have demonstrated a deeper commitment to our guarantee of democratic equality on behalf of minority citizens and exerted greater effort to that end than perhaps in any other domain of our civic life—the jury box. This paper recounts this important history and explores the political theory underlying the equal protection jurisprudence of jury selection. It then applies these lessons gleaned from the jury context to the constitutional defense of efforts to achieve greater racial diversity within the judiciary, law enforcement, and public education, all of which are as important to the legitimacy of our democracy today as the jury has been throughout American history.

Vulnerability, Access to Justice, and the Fragmented State by Elizabeth L. MacDowell

This Article builds on theories of the fragmented state and of human and institutional vulnerability to create a new, structural theory of “functional fragmentation” and its role in access to justice work. Expanding on previous concepts of fragmentation in access to justice scholarship, fragmentation is understood in the Article as a complex phenomenon existing within as well as between state institutions like courts. Further, it is examined in terms of its relationship to the state’s coercive power over poor people in legal systems. In this view, fragmentation in state operations creates not only challenges for access, but also opportunities for resistance, resilience, and justice. Focusing on problem-solving courts, and family courts in particular, the Article examines the intersection of human and institutional vulnerability within legal institutions and provides a framework for identifying ways to create greater access to justice. The Article contributes to state theory and the feminist theory of vulnerability, while providing a new way to understand and address an increasingly coercive state and its punitive effects on low-income people.

The Case Against Police Militarization by Eliav Lieblich & Adam Shinar

We usually think there is a difference between the police and the military. Recently, however, the police have become increasingly militarized – a process which is likely to intensify in coming years. Unsurprisingly, many find this process alarming and call for its reversal. However, while most of the objections to police militarization are framed as instrumental arguments, these arguments are unable to capture the core problem with militarization.

This Article remedies this shortcoming by developing a novel and principled argument against police militarization. Contrary to arguments that are preoccupied with the consequences of militarization, the real problem with police militarization is not that it brings about more violence or abuse of authority – though that may very well happen – but that it is based on a presumption of the citizen as a threat, while the liberal order is based on precisely the opposite presumption. A presumption of threat, we argue, assumes that citizens, usually from marginalized communities, pose a threat of such caliber that might require the use of extreme violence.

This presumption, communicated symbolically through the deployment of militarized police, marks the policed community as an enemy, and thereby excludes it from the body politic. Crucially, the pervasiveness of police militarization has led to its normalization, thus exacerbating its exclusionary effect. Indeed, whereas the domestic deployment of militaries has always been reserved for exceptional times, the process of police militarization has normalized what was once exceptional.


Distant Voices Then and Now: The Impact of Isolation on the Courtroom Narratives of Slave Ship Captains and Asylum Seekers by Tara Patel

Part I compares the nineteenth century cases of the Antelope and the Amistad to identify why they resulted in different outcomes despite having similar fact patterns. The Antelope concerned the fate of approximately 280 African captives discovered on a slave trade ship upon its interception by a U.S. revenue cutter. Since the slave trade in the United States was illegal at the time, the captives were transported to Savannah for trial through which their status—free or slave—would be determined. After a lengthy trial and appeals process in which Spain and Portugal laid claim to the captives, the Supreme Court determined that those captives claimed by a non-U.S. nation were slaves. The Court reasons that however “abhorrent” the slave trade was, the United States was obligated to recognize the rights of other nations to participate in it. In comparison, the Amistad concerned the fate of captives aboard a slave trade ship in which the captives committed mutiny, attempted to sail to Africa, but were captured by a U.S. vessel. The Supreme Court ordered them free despite the Spanish government’s claim that the captives were its property. Part I explores these different outcomes and argues that the absence of Antelope captives’ stories in the litigation process was partly due to the decision to isolate captives in slavery before their status was determined. In particular, it argues that this isolation affected the outcome of the Antelope by preventing captives from sharing their anecdotes and translating them to a format that would resonate with their legal counsel, the public, and judges. In contrast, the Amistad captives, while also detained, were situated close to those who could help them. They were able to transform their truths into a winning narrative for the court by understanding and leveraging the talents and expertise of counsel, and the biases of judges and the public.

Part II argues that 200 years later, a similar environment of isolation suppresses the stories of another group with undetermined legal status: asylum seekers. Although slave ship captives were forced into the country with chains, while asylum seekers are driven into the country by fear, the legal status of both groups in their respective time periods was undetermined upon their arrival. Both groups deserved, by legal and moral standards, the opportunity to present the truth behind their arrival and to prove their legal status. Part II argues that the detention of asylum seekers mirrors the isolation of the Antelope captives by removing detainees from those most able to help them develop a persuasive narrative truth. Detention silences important voices, aggravates ineffective representation, damages public perception, and ultimately harms case outcomes.

Fairness in the Exceptions: Trusting Juries on Matters of Race by Virginia Weeks

Implicit bias research indicates that despite our expressly endorsed values, Americans share a pervasive bias disfavoring Black Americans and favoring White Americans. This bias permeates legislative as well as judicial decision-making, leading to the possibility of verdicts against Black defendants that are tainted with racial bias. The Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado provides an ex post remedy for blatant racism that impacts jury verdicts, while jury nullification provides an ex ante remedy by empowering jurors to reject convicting Black defendants when to do so would reinforce racially biased laws. Both remedies exist alongside a trend limiting the role of the jury and ultimately indicate that we trust juries to keep racism out of the courtroom in the exceptions to our normal procedures.