BookTalk

  • June 5, 2014
    BookTalk
    Family Law Reimagined (Harvard University Press 2014)
    By: 
    Jill Elaine Hasday

    by Jill Elaine Hasday, Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Centennial Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School

    One of the law’s most important and far-reaching roles is to govern family life and family members. Family law decides who counts as kin, how family relationships are created and dissolved, and what legal rights and responsibilities come with marriage, parenthood, sibling ties, and other family bonds. Family law touches some of the most important aspects of our lives, including our most intimate relationships, our children, and our wealth. It structures both the details of daily life and the overarching features of society. Yet while there are wonderful scholars and lawyers working in family law, the field continues to attract much less critical attention than it deserves.

    I wrote Family Law Reimagined (Harvard University Press 2014) to direct more scrutiny toward a field that is so significant and ubiquitous, yet remains relatively understudied. The book seeks to better understand family law by exploring how legal decisionmakers think about the subject.

    The book focuses on the dominant stories that courts and legislatures use to explain family law and its governing principles. To a remarkable extent, these stories misdescribe the reality of family law, misdirect attention away from the actual problems that family law confronts, and misshape the policies that legal authorities pursue. In a nutshell, my book argues that much of the “common sense” that judges and legislators expound about family law actually makes little sense.

  • May 12, 2014
    BookTalk
    Place, Not Race
    A New Vision of Opportunity in America
    By: 
    Sheryll Cashin

    by Sheryll Cashin, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center. This essay is adapted from parts of Cashin’s book Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America. Professor Cashin will also participating in a panel discussion, “Race and the law in 2014: Still Separate and Unequal?” at the ACS 2014 National Convention.

    Despite the Supreme Court’s compromise decision in Fisher v. Texas, affirmative action is on life support. In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the Supreme Court upheld the ability of Michigan voters to ban race-based affirmative action. Conservative opponents will continue to attack the policy in politics and the courts. There will always be another Abigail Fisher. One important response to the demise of race-based affirmative action should be to incorporate the experience of segregation into diversity strategies. I argue that use of place, rather than race, in diversity programming will better redress the separate and unequal schooling that most black and Latino children endure, while enhancing the possibility that we might one day move past the racial resentment that affirmative action engenders.

    While I propose substituting place for race in university admissions, I am not suggesting that American society has become post-racial. My proposal accounts for the racial architecture of opportunity in this country through the race-neutral means of place. Ultimately, I conclude that the social costs of racial preferences outweigh any marginal benefits when race-neutral alternatives are available that will create racial diversity by expanding opportunity to those most disadvantaged by structural barriers. The truly disadvantaged—black and brown children trapped in high-poverty environs—are not getting the quality of schooling they need, partially because backlash wedge politics undermines any possibility for common sense public policies. Affirmative action as currently practiced in admissions at most elite institutions does little to help this group and may make matters worse by contributing to political gridlock borne of racial cleavage.

  • May 1, 2014
    BookTalk
    Reproducing Racism
    How Everyday Choices Lock In White Advantage
    By: 
    Daria Roithmayr

    by Daria Roithmayr, George T. and Harriet E. Pfleger Professor of Law, University of Southern California Gould College of Law

    This is a book about why racial inequality persists.  Six years after the President Obama’s inauguration, blacks and Latinos have barely a nickel of wealth for every dollar that whites have. The wealth gap between black and white has increased by fourfold in the last generation. Poverty rates for Latinos are almost three times that of whites.  The black unemployment rate is double, as are dropout rates for young Latino and black men. Incarceration rates are respectively three and seven times the rate of white men.  Far from being post-racial, then, race continues to matter on almost every measure of well-being. Why do we see these huge racial gaps—in jobs, housing, education, wealth, incarceration—decade after decade?

    Reproducing Racism argues that racial inequality reproduces itself automatically, generation after generation, in the everyday choices we make about our lives—like choosing where to live or deciding to refer a friend for a job. Light on the subject comes from a most unexpected place—innovative work on a phenomenon called “lock-in.” Economists like Brian Arthur have developed the “lock-in model” to explain why an early lead for one technology can sometimes persist for extended periods even when the technology faces competition from a superior alternative. The lock-in model describes the way that unfair competitive advantage can begin to reproduce itself over time, automatically, without any ongoing illegal behavior.

  • March 6, 2014
    BookTalk
    Taking Liberties
    Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do
    By: 
    Rob Boston
    by Rob Boston, Director of Communications, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
     
    Religious freedom is crucial to the American experience. Indeed, a longing for the right to worship according to the dictates of conscience is one of the reasons our nation exists.
     
    Religious freedom encompasses many concepts. Fundamentally, it means the power to choose where and how you will worship—or if you’ll worship at all. It also means that the government has no right to compel anyone to take part in religious exercises or force its citizens to directly subsidize houses of worship. It means that decisions about faith are private and belong firmly anchored in what Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark once eloquently referred to as the “inviolable citadel of the heart.”
     
    That’s what religious freedom is. Here is what it is not: a tool to control others or to diminish their rights. Yet, increasingly, this is how some Americans are defining religious liberty. Because religious freedom is central to our democracy, it’s important that we get this right.
     
    I wrote Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do because I was concerned that a noble principle designed to protect individual freedom was being warped into an instrument of mass oppression. This must not happen.
     
  • January 28, 2014
    BookTalk
    Defining the Struggle
    National Organizing for Racial Justice, 1880-1915
    By: 
    Susan D. Carle
    by Susan D. Carle, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law
     
    As the nation heads towards the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the time is ripe for revisiting the origins of the social movement that gave this important legislation its birth. We commonly think of the federal civil rights legislation of the 1960s, including both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as a product of a social movement that began just a few decades before. In fact, however, both the ideas for new national civil rights legislation to enforce the U.S. Constitution’s dictates of citizenship equality, and the activism that propelled those ideas into law, have far older origins.
     
    Defining the Struggle: National Organizing for Racial Justice, 1880-1915, uncovers the almost forgotten “prehistory” of national organizing to promote racial citizenship equality. The book traces this history’s basis in the activism of lawyers and other civil rights leaders of the late 19th and first years of the 20th century. Through organizations rarely remembered today, such as the National Afro American League, the National Afro American Council, the Niagara Movement and others, early national leaders and activists began to experiment with a panoply of law-related strategies for advancing the equality principles embedded in the nation’s constitutional texts. These activists deeply believed in these fundamental equality principles, but they just as deeply distrusted the bureaucrats charged with enforcing law. Put otherwise, they were not naive “legal liberals” who believed the courts would enforce racial equality principles simply because they were petitioned to do. Early civil rights lawyers understood that the struggle would be a political one, and they were pessimistic about the advances that could be made without gaining more political power. At the same time, they believed that the courts were one forum in which the battle for racial equality should be fought, if only by exposing the nation’s hypocrisy on racial equality to the world. Even recognizing the great odds against them, this early generation of legal activists was willing to take on the challenge of using principles of  constitutional law to challenge the unjust application of law.