Identifying a problem is usually easier than solving it. Take, for instance, the spate of police shootings of unarmed minority suspects like Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Proposed solutions seem to vary from mild responses like more racial sensitivity training for police officers to more punitive ones like heavy criminal sanctions that are never in fact imposed . UC Berkeley Law professor Franklin Zimring in his book When Police Kill suggests a more indirect, but […]
The New York Times has good news to report. It turns out that doing good works. Non-profits in inner city areas that have worked on mundane projects– e.g. planting trees, building playgrounds, mentoring students, and finding employment for young males– have played a significant role in reducing the murder rates in American cities. Here’s the whole story.
The title to Tim Wu’s op-ed in the NYT sounds the alarm– “How Twitter Killed the First Amendment.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/27/opinion/twitter-first-amendment.html?_r=0. . Professor Wu points out that there has been a dramatic change in how speech operates in American politics. Formerly, the First Amendment worked to protect speakers from government prosecution, thereby creating a workable national political discourse. But now censors in Russia and China have invented new techniques geared to the internet age that permit them […]
How does social reform happen? History books tend to portray social reform as a tidal wave that sweeps away an unjust and obsolete status quo, but I think reform is better understood as the cumulative result of individual acts of opposition to concrete injustices people encounter in their own lives. Only with hindsight can we assess the importance of any one action. Even an idle question posed in a conversation between old friends might turn […]
Donald Trump has ushered in the era of “fake news.” The only question is whether we should view Trump himself as its creator or its victim. Now we see a parallel problem with Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions– Is Sessions the enemy of “fake evidence” or its champion? This NYT article by Jim Dwyer suggests he is its champion. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/11/nyregion/dental-molds-forensic-dentistry-research-bite-marks.html By “fake evidence” I mean prosecution testimony that purports to be backed by scientific expertise, […]
Back in 1969 I worked in a legal services office in the Imperial Valley on the California-Mexican Border. Most of our clients were Mexican-Americans who had the usual poor people legal problems–rent arrears, welfare, and consumer debt. For instance, I found I had a large number of clients who were being dunned for unpaid bills at the County Hospital. Since my employer, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), believed that we should not only represent […]
Social Science tell us that situational pressures, more than personal ethics, drive our decisions. Remember the volunteers in a Yale study who willingly “tortured” people when directed to do so by authority figures. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment It seems that almost every day we read of some corporate rip-off of unsuspecting consumers. If we have any hope of controlling these fraudulent practices our laws must put in place incentives for corporations to encourage ethical behavior and prevent illegal […]
I believe that imagination, not logic, is the essential ingredient in good legal reasoning. But imagination need not be vague or dreamy. Sometimes the imaginative solution to a thorny legal problem can be as clear and simple as 1,2,3. A good example is found in a recent case involving the recurring evil of political gerrymanders. This NYT editorial tells the story well. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/opinion/where-unfair-voting-practices-begin.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region®ion=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0 “Gerrymander” is a term most people have heard of, but few understand. […]