Section 006, January 2019
Section Description Provided by Instructor
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. – Mahatma Gandhi
Litigation and legal advocacy play a critical role in movements for social justice. Across a range of cutting edge issues legal advocates work closely with movement leaders to mobilize litigation as one of the tactics deployed to combat structural racism, sexism, homophobia, economic inequality, abusive state power, and other forms of oppression.
This intensive course will examine the tactics and strategies deployed by social movement lawyers. Much of legal education focuses on mastery of doctrine, procedural rules, and the legal process abstracted from the socio-, political-contexts within which legal advocacy takes place. Success is largely measured in terms of positive rulings from a judge or jury. Social movement lawyering, by contrast, provides an excellent example of how lawyers use litigation as part of an overall advocacy strategy, deploying it as a tool in a larger toolkit that can include communications/media strategies, grass roots mobilization, Freedom of Information Act disclosures, public education, and other tools.
Key questions that will be addressed in this course:
• When should lawyers lead the advocacy strategy and when should they take direction from movement partners?
• When is the goal of the advocacy strategy about the enforcement of rights rather than the advancement of a larger notion of justice?
• How can legal strategies attack not just the symptoms of social injustice but the structure that maintains it?
• When might losing a case in court be a kind of “success without victory”?
• When might a step-by-step strategy (i.e. NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s desegregation and Lambda Legal’s marriage equality strategies) be the best approach and when might a more radical approach be called for (including questioning the legitimacy of the legal system itself)?
• Under what circumstances might a legal claim be more likely to succeed if the litigation is not framed in terms that explicitly name the kind of injustice being addressed (i.e. using the Administrative Procedure Act or the vagueness doctrine, rather than alleging race/sex/sexual orientation based discrimination)?
This course will be comprised of a combination of classroom lectures, outside speakers, practicums, and group work. Students will be expected to attend all classroom sessions and participate actively in the work of small groups. Each group will prepare and file a freedom of information act/law request on an issue that supports a social justice movement (suggested topics will be provided) and will prepare a memorandum on how the FOIA/FOIL request figures in a larger social justice advocacy strategy. Students are expected to spend a minimum of two and ½ hours each day on the assigned readings in order to prepare for class.
Students will be evaluated (pass/fail) based on their class participation and group projects.
MTWRF 9:00-5:00 pm
Method of Evaluation
J.D. Writing Credit
Learning Outcome Goals
Section 003, January 2020
Section 004, January 2020
Section 008, January 2020
Jedediah S. Purdy
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Philip M. Genty
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Jane C. Ginsburg
David S Louk
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Avery W. Katz
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Katherine M. Franke
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