All posts filed under: Repairing the System

Small Revolutionary Acts

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Heroes / Repairing the System

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 […]

Fake Justice

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Repairing the System

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, […]

Shameless Self-Promotion

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Heroes / Repairing the System

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 […]

Blind Justice

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Repairing the System

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 […]

Creative Math

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Heroes / Repairing the System

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&region=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. […]

Don’t Blame Donald!

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Heroes / Repairing the System

Here is a NYT article detailing the misery of migrant farm workers in California’s Salinas Valley. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/in-a-california-valley-healthy-food-everywhere-but-on-the-table.html?_r=0 The gist of the story is that since the 1930’s Salinas Valley has been famous for the quality of its vegetables and the poverty of the migrant workers who harvest them. And this is one we can’t blame on Donald Trump. Salinas is in the middle of California, a state with a Democratic governor, a Democratic legislature, and […]

The Story Behind the Story

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Repairing the System

What’s the story behind the story of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17 year old Laquan McDonald multiple times as the boy was walking away from him, but still claiming he acted in self-defense, a lie several of his fellow officers repeated in their official reports of the killing? And why would police officers lie in official reports, an act that could get them fired? And, finally, is McDonald’s death a tragic error […]

The Big Apple Shows How Free Lawyers for the Poor Pay for Themselves

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Democracy's Constitution / Repairing the System

Leyla Martinez is a good example of the problem and its solution. Ms. Martinez, a single mother, had just been evicted from her apartment in the Bronx after a year’s struggle representing herself in the New York Housing Court. Then she was able to contact an attorney at the Urban Justice Center; soon thereafter Ms. Martinez and her kids were back in their apartment. Seventy percent of low-income tenants come to housing court without a […]

Let’s Give Law a Chance

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Repairing the System / Repairing The Systen

We are all unhappy about continuing stories of widespread police abuse of African-American citizens, but there seems to be no effective remedy available. One egregious example was the police killing of  seventeen year old Laquan McDonald  in Chicago.  McDonald  was shot by officer Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke claimed McDonald  was coming at him with a knife and he only  shot in self-defense. Several of his police colleagues filed statements corroborating Van Dyke’s story. Then a […]

Guilty Til Proven Innocent– and Even After!

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BurLAWcracy / Repairing the System

Amy Albritton learned the hard way that the American criminal justice system assumes that those charged with crime are guilty, at least until proven innocent, and sometimes even after. This article from the New York Times Magazine sets out Amy’s experience in detail. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/10/magazine/how-a-2-roadside-drug-test-sends-innocent-people-to-jail.html) Amy, the divorced mother of two children, had a good job as the manager of an apartment complex in Monroe, Louisiana when she left with a new boyfriend on a get-away […]