Reinventing the Wheel: Why Broken Cities Stay Broken (2010)

Reinventing the Wheel:
Why Broken Cities Stay Broken and New Ways
Civil Rights Attorneys Can Fix Them

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Commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Journal
February 5–6, 2010


Photo courtesy of Image created using Adobe Photoshop by Richard Mullen.

MJR&L is looking to return to our roots, while also aiming to be forward thinking at the same time, in celebrating our 15th year of publication. As a journal that has focused heavily on civil rights, we are using the symposium as a vehicle to explore our nation’s past in the fight for civil rights, to analyze how and why attorneys chose to address those problems, and to use that knowledge to create strategies to address the problems that our urban environments face today. As the country has evolved, expanded, and advanced, many cities still face problems that have yet to be solved, and a charge of our symposium will be to come up with new solutions to these problems.

As students at the University of Michigan, we are especially aware of such troubles from looking at our neighboring city of Detroit. As our nation struggles with a large-scale economic depression and the problems stemming from it, we endeavor to bring to light the struggles of urban communities they have continuously faced, and ways in which change may be brought about, making such a symposium both timely and relevant. To that end, our symposium looks to examine civil rights struggles and why the traditional remedies worked, what the newer or existing problems are and why such solutions don’t work, as well as developing concrete solutions to such problems through a focus on Detroit.


Session 1: 20th Century Civil Rights:
The Problems Veteran Civil Rights Attorneys Faced and Why They Were Successful

This panel will look to civil rights veterans, attorneys, activists, and scholars to discuss the problems they encountered throughout their careers and how those problems were able to be solved through legal avenues. What made them choose those strategies? Did they consider other strategies? Why were those strategies successful considering the sentiments of the public at the time? To help answer these questions, areas in which civil rights battles have been traditionally fought will be the focus of this panel including desegregation/integration, employment discrimination, voting rights, as well as other rights advanced by civil rights attorneys throughout the years.

Session 2: 21st Century Civil Rights:
New Issues and Why the Old Ways No Longer Work

 After discussing the methods that enabled change during the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, we will turn our attention to the current problems being faced within our broken cities. This panel will focus on identifying the problems that persist in these communities that the traditional remedies are unable to solve. Why can’t the traditional remedies solve the current problems? Are there other legal tools available that can bring about change in a way that veteran civil rights leaders were able to? Can the law no longer provide a solution to these ingrained problems? Have those remedies simply been exhausted, forcing us to reinvent the wheel? What are we doing wrong? Panelists will be asked to express their opinion on what problems plague these broken cities, what keeps them from being fixed, and why the old ways are no longer effective. Panelists will also be asked to voice their approval or concerns with the current methods or attempts made by activists, organizations, and lawyers, in attempting to create change and solve the problems within our broken cities.

Session 3: Creating the Solutions to the Problems
That Plague Our Broken Cities

 The final panel will shift the focus from analyzing problems that face urban environments generally, to how we can implement new civil rights strategies to fix urban problems specifically, through a focus on Detroit. People frequently comment on cities such as Detroit, which at one time were thriving, but have turned into broken cities that we seem incapable of fixing. Persistent problems plague the cities, yet no concrete ideas have come into fruition to enable the dramatic changes necessary for cities like Detroit to be sustainable, successful cities again. Panelists will be asked to come up with definitive solutions that can actually be presented and put to use in fixing our broken cities, specifically Detroit in the panel, but can also be applicable to similarly situated cities. How can we effectively create change? What must be done differently? What must we stop doing? Where do we go from here? The hope is that this panel stimulates a serious and productive dialogue on how to fundamentally change the course of Detroit, revitalize it, and make it a place people want to live in and visit again.


Alvin J. Bronstein, Director Emeritus, National Prison Project; Consultant, National ACLU Legal and Affiliate Support Departments

Raymond M. Brown, Partner, Chair of the White Collar Practice Group, Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis LLP; Host of Emmy Award Winning New Jersey Network Program, “Due Process”; Former Court TV Anchor; Guest on television and radio programs including ABC’s World News Tonight, Rivera Live, and the BBC

Julius L. Chambers, Of Counsel, Ferguson Stein Chambers Gresham & Sumter, P.A

Adam H. Cutler, Director, Public Health and Environmental Justice Law Clinic at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia

Laurel Dumont, MSW, Esq., Founder & Executive Director, The Center For Collaborative Change

Eileen Gauna, Professor, University of New Mexico

Jack Greenberg, Professor, Columbia Law School

Dr. Arthur Johnson, Former Director, Detroit Branch of NAACP; Former Deputy Director of Michigan Civil Rights Commission; Former Deputy Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools System; Former Vice President for University Relations of Wayne State University

Minsu Longiaru, Coordinator, Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan (ROC-MI)

William C. McNeill, III, Managing Attorney, The Legal Aid Society of San Francisco—Employment Law Center

Tony Paris, Staff Attorney, Sugar Law Center For Economic and Social Justice

Matthew Parlow, Associate Professor of Law, Marquette University Law School

John P. Relman, Founder and Director, Relman & Dane

Jon Seward, Deputy Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, U.S. Department of Justice

Mildred Thompson, Senior Director and Director of the PolicyLink Center for Health and Place.

Donele Wilkins, Executive Director and Founder of Detroiters Working For Environmental Justice

Corporate Sponsors


Cooper & Walinski




Miller Canfield

Morrison & Foerster LLP



Additional Sponsors

University of Michigan Law School
Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan
University of Michigan Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
University of Michigan School of Social Work
Environmental Law and Policy Program at the University of Michigan Law School
University of Michigan Institute for Social Research
University of Michigan Office of the President
University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
The Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan
The Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan
U of M Institute for Research on Women and Gender