Monthly Archives: June 2015

The RightsCast, Episode 12, Part 1: Charlotte Garden, “Meta Rights”

This week’s episode of The RightsCast features Professor Charlotte Garden (Seattle U), a scholar of labor law and constitutional law as well as Litigation Director at the school’s Korematsu Center for Law & Equality. (I am also proud to say that I have coauthored an article with Charlotte on the potential for coalitions between civil rights and labor interests —  it’s called “So Closely Intertwined: Labor and Racial Solidarity” and appeared in the George Washington Law Review in 2013.)

On The RightsCast, Charlotte discusses her article “Meta Rights,” which appeared in the Fordham Law Review and which examines when and why we’re entitled to be informed of our constitutional rights. As I’ve done with some other recent guests, I split our conversation into two parts; here is Part One:

Practicum Recap #2: Doctrinal Learning

As I noted in previous posts, I co-taught a new class called Constitutional Litigation Practicum this past semester. I’m now writing a series of reflections on teaching the class. In this post I’ll offer some general thoughts about how to prepare to teach the doctrinal component of a practicum-style class involving both doctrinal and skills-based learning, and a Constitutional Litigation Practicum class in particular.

The doctrinal portion of the Constitutional Litigation Practicum was integral to the class. We wanted students to have a strong foundation not only for the specific concepts they would be applying in the skills simulations throughout the class, but also to understand the overarching structure of litigation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. We also wanted students to go into the skills simulations with most of this knowledge, rather than fumbling through depositions or motions without a solid grounding in the area in which they practice. Both Qusair and I have seen far too many lawyers whose understanding of the law is reasonably good as it relates to their specific case, yet who are thrown entirely off balance by a question linking the specific understanding of the case to the broader doctrinal architecture. Representing a client well requires both narrow and broad understandings. Continue reading

My New York Times Piece: “Racial Fluidity and the Value of Race”

I have a piece in the New York Times called “Racial Fluidity Complicates the Value We Assign to Race.” I link racial fluidity to the framework for assigning racial value that I discussed in my previous article “Racial Capitalism,” with a brief mention of Rachel Dolezal. (I am feeling pretty done with Rachel Dolezal, but as I wrote the piece it seemed odd not to mention her.) My piece is part of a “Room for Debate” including six essays on the topic of racial fluidity. Comments welcome, as always.

This Is Not a Post About Rachel Dolezal

This is not a post about Rachel Dolezal, the president of the Spokane NAACP whose story has received a great deal of attention in the media over the last few days. For anyone who is not entirely familiar with the story, the claim in a nutshell is that Dolezal has presented herself as black to the community for the past decade or so via her appearance and behavior, but was recently described by her parents in an interview as entirely “of Caucasian and European descent.”

A great deal of interesting commentary has examined Rachel Dolezal’s behavior. I recommend this Washington Post piece by Professor Osamudia James (Miami Law), this piece in Slate by Jamelle Bouie, and this interesting exchange between Latoya Peterson and Danielle Henderson on Fusion. For scholarly work discussing people who pass from white to black or who attempt to choose a racial identity, I recommend “Elective Race: Recognizing Race Discrimination in the Era of Racial Self-Identification,” by Professor Camille Gear Rich (USC Law), and this fascinating article by Professor Robin Kelley (UCLA History) about Grace Halsell. Continue reading

The RightsCast, Episode 11, Part 2: Osamudia James, “White Like Me”

The second part of my conversation with Osamudia James (Miami Law) about her wonderful article “White Like Me” is now available! Check it out. Great material for those who teach affirmative action in Constitutional Law I and II, or for any upper level seminar relating to race.

On Hamilton & Griffin on Rights: “The Anticlimax of Elonis v. United States”

I have a belated post about Elonis v. United States on Hamilton & Griffin on Rights. I’ve seldom felt so little enthusiasm for writing about a Supreme Court decision. The Court refused to decide any of the hard questions and left open the question of whether a recklessness standard will suffice — a question sure to create chaos in the lower courts, not to mention in the lives of those charged with crimes and those targeted by threatening speech.

This is one of the least helpful Supreme Court decisions I’ve seen in a long time. Why didn’t the Court just say whether either the statute or the First Amendment allows a showing of recklessness for conviction? Or not? Both positions are reasonable, and I think almost everyone would be fine with either outcome. (I would.)

Practicum Recap #1: Preparing to Teach

As I noted in previous posts, I co-taught a new class called Constitutional Litigation Practicum this past semester. I’m now writing a series of reflections on teaching the class. In this post I’ll offer some brief thoughts about how to prepare to teach a practicum-style class in general, and a Constitutional Litigation Practicum class in particular.

Practicum classes occupy a unique space: they are neither traditional doctrinal classes nor live-client clinics. This provides an opportunity to create an environment in which students gain expertise in a particular doctrinal area and immediately have opportunities to apply that knowledge in a structured setting, including highly realistic simulations. (I’ll talk more about the several simulations we employed in future posts.) Continue reading

The RightsCast, Episode 11, Part 1: Professor Osamudia James, “White Like Me”

The RightsCast is back! I’m thrilled to present Part One of an episode featuring Osamudia James (Miami Law) discussing her recent NYU Law Review article “White Like Me: The Negative Impact of the Diversity Rationale on White Identity Formation.” The article is a fascinating look at the way that the diversity rationale for affirmative action — as opposed to some other possible rationales — actually inhibits the formation of anti-racist white identity. Part Two of the episode will be available next week.

Constitutional Litigation Practicum: A Recap

At the beginning of the past semester, I announced that I was co-teaching an innovative new class called Constitutional Litigation Practicum with well-known Denver civil rights attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai. The class was great! I also announced that Qusair and I would be blogging about the class. That was not nearly as great, simply because we were both very busy last the semester and my blogging (both about the Practicum and other topics) slowed down.

Now that the class is over, I wanted to spend a few blog posts reflecting on the Practicum, what worked well, things we might do differently, and hopefully giving anyone who is thinking about designing a similar class some ideas about how to create the class. An overview of the class — with a link to the syllabus, which evolved a few times throughout the semester — is available here. In subsequent posts I’ll be covering the following topics: (1) organizing the class; (2) doctrinal learning; (3) taking and defending depositions; (4) writing and revising summary judgment motions; (5) oral arguments; (6) constructing a useful final exam.

Constitutional Litigation 2

The inaugural Constitutional Litigation Practicum class in front of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law on the last day of class.