Economic inequality

  • January 28, 2015
    BookTalk
    Cases on Reproductive Rights and Justice
    By: 
    Melissa Murray and Kristin Luker

    by Melissa Murray, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Berkeley Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice (CRRJ), University of California, Berkeley

    I must admit that for much of my academic career, I never thought of myself as someone who “did” reproductive rights.  When asked at dinner parties, I volunteered that I taught criminal law and family law.  When pressed ― “what on earth do those subjects have to do with each other?” ― I would explain that I was interested in the regulation of sex, sexuality and family formation.  Criminal law and family law, I would explain, were principal sites in which this sort of regulation took place.

    It was not until my colleague, Kristin Luker, a well-known sociologist and scholar of the abortion rights movement, nudged me to view my work more expansively that I began to see it fitting comfortably within the rubric of reproductive rights and justice.  As she reminded me, limitations on access to contraception and abortion are, by their very nature, efforts to regulate sex and sexuality by curtailing women’s efforts to control reproduction.  The legal regulation of reproduction is merely part of a broader story of efforts to discipline and regulate sex.

    My interest in reproductive rights and justice piqued, I joined Berkeley Law’s newly-formed Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice (CRRJ) as an affiliated faculty member in 2012 and assumed the role of Faculty Director in 2015.  Before its official founding, CRRJ hosted a meeting with staff from Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) where we discussed the state of the field, including the availability of law school courses on reproductive rights and justice.  As I learned, although there was huge demand from students for such classes, many interested professors were reluctant to teach reproductive rights and justice courses because there was no casebook.  Because of the lack of a casebook, those willing to teach the subject were forced to compile their own materials ― a burdensome task, even for the most enthusiastic teacher.

  • January 2, 2015

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Liberals lost an inspiring orator, personality and tactician in politics with the death of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Many of the flood of eulogies, statements and tales of the long-serving governor reference his commitment to liberalism, especially when Ronald Reagan was pushing the limited-government agenda of the Right.

    ACS was fortunate to have had Cuomo serve on its Board of Advisors and was saddened by news of his death.

    Writing for The New York Times, Adam Nagourney noted Cuomo’s unwavering commitment to liberalism, which would lead to the New York governor becoming an “eloquent spokesman for liberal politics.” Cuomo took on Reagan’s “shinning city on a hill,” using high-profile opportunities to remind voters of inequalities in the nation that have continued to fester to this day.

    President Obama issued a statement that described Cuomo as “a determined champion of progressive values, and unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity.”

    Some more thoughtful pieces on Cuomo’s life and work:

    Observations from The Atlantic’s James Fallows, with links to some of the governor’s speeches

    A piece for The Guardian by Walter Shapiro

    Blake Zeff’s personal look for Salon

    Los Angeles Times’ reporters Elaine Woo and Matt Pearce write that Cuomo “became one of the Democratic Party’s most forceful voices on the need to address economic inequality.”

  • October 24, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In Salon, Lynn Stuart Parramore discusses how new research indicates that wealth inequality is growing sharply around the world.

    Ellzabeth Wydra writes in the Huffington Post on how the Supreme Court is refusing to play politics in the Obamacare fight.

    In The Atlantic, Garrett Epps looks at Chief Justice John Roberts’ conflicting views on race and voter ID.

    Sean McElwee of Vox examines the class differences in voting rates and their implications for elections.

    In The Wall Street Journal, Jess Bravin discusses Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s correction to Texas Voter ID law dissent.

    Brianne Gorod considers the Chief Justice’s views on federal power at the Text and History Blog

  • October 3, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Lyle Denniston looks at what is next for same-sex marriage in the Supreme Court at SCOTUSblog.

     A ruling from the U.S. Court for the Fifth Circuit closed all but eight Texas abortion clinics, reports Sarah Kliff of Vox.

    In Alliance for Justice’s blog, Meghan Jones and Christopher Brook discuss State v. Heien and why law enforcement ignorance of the law is not an excuse for Fourth Amendment violations.

    Eliot Hannon reports in Slate on the religious discrimination case against Abercrombie & Fitch that the Supreme Court will hear this term.

    Daniel Gutiérrez discusses in Jacobin the how migrant workers bear the brunt of capitalism’s challenges to labor. 

  • September 19, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Atiba R. Ellis, Associate Professor of Law, West Virginia University College of Law, @atibaellis. This post is part of our 2014 Constitution Day symposium.

    On September 17, 1787, the framers signed the U.S. Constitution. The document they approved 227 years ago is a work of genius as it provided a democratic republic that has endured economic turmoil, mass insurrection, and disasters of various sorts -- forces that have toppled other democracies.  The U.S. Constitution, the oldest enduring written constitution in the world today, has endured and preserved democracy based upon rule of law.

    Although one might point to the advantages and disadvantages of federalism, the dynamics of enumerated powers, or the political compromises that undergird separation of powers as powerful tactics the Constitution deploys, it is not in any of these mechanisms where the genius of the Constitution lies. Its true genius is its mechanism to allow we the people to reinvent our democracy as our times and ethics demand. It is this power of reinvention that has allowed our constitution to endure and matter to the world. 

    This power of democratic transition is best illustrated in the way our Constitution has been reinvented, over time, from a document that enshrined inequality to one that strives for equality. The Constitution of 1787 reflected and implemented a social theory we would not recognize or sanction today. The Constitution endorsed states’ rights (though this name would not be invented until a century later to protect slavery) and left it to the states to structure the social relations of the nation. Thus, despite a Bill of Rights that protected the rights of citizens, the Constitution allowed the chattel slavery of Africans to endure in the United States when it was being abolished in other parts of the world. The Constitution allowed women to be treated as property. Despite our hymns to constitutional genius, the lived experience of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was rooted in inequality.

    To focus merely on the genius of the original document (and as a consequence, elevate those times and those founders) is to fixate on an originalism that suffered subordination and endorsed a hierarchy. And, as our experience with the Civil War illustrates, the country came within a hair’s breath of being dismantled by faction and racism due to an unwillingness to recreate the United States.

    Yet our Constitution endures because it has embedded within it mechanisms by which our evolving notions of equality and justice may receive constitutional protection from the tyranny of caste and status. Though volumes have been written on this topic, it is worth remembering in our celebration of the Constitution that the amendment process and the wisdom of legislators and judges who sought to make manifest the idea of equality helped to preserve the Union at its most imperiled points. One needs only recount the work of Reconstruction, the long march from segregation to Civil Rights, the movement towards women’s equality, and our modern day same-sex marriage cases to see how the long arc of equality has progressed. And all of these changes have been enabled through an American constitutionalism that, in the words of Harper v. Virginia, is not shackled to the political theory of a particular era.