Systemic Justice

Historic Settlement in Jennings

Great news from two friends of the Systemic Justice Project:

A small city bordering Ferguson, Mo., has agreed to pay $4.7 million to compensate nearly 2,000 people who spent time in the city’s jail for not paying fines and fees related to traffic and other relatively petty violations.

Alec explains the systemic place of this litigation:

“This historic settlement is part of a national movement to change how indifferent we’ve become to putting human beings in cages, and to end the notion that courts can be used as tools of revenue generation rather than places of justice,” said Alec Karakatsanis, whose Washington-based nonprofit organization, Equal Justice Under Law, brought the suit with the Arch City Defenders, a Missouri nonprofit group, and the St. Louis University School of Law.

See the full New York Times story here.

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Some 2016 Conference Photos

Systemic Lawyering Panel Panelists: Tyler Giannini; Thomas Harvey; Dean Strang Moderator: Salome Viljoen

 

Dean Strang Keynote: “Humility in Criminal Justice: Systemic Questions it Would Invite Us to Reconsider”

Dean Strang Keynote: “Humility in Criminal Justice: Systemic Questions it Would Invite Us to Reconsider”

Brunch Forum: From 3L to SL: Recent Grad Discussion Participants: Sima Atri; Sameer Birring; Stephanie Davidson; Ben Elga; Blake Strode; Max Utzschneider Moderator: Jacob Lipton

Brunch Forum: From 3L to SL: Recent Grad Discussion
Participants: Sima Atri; Sameer Birring; Stephanie Davidson; Ben Elga; Blake Strode; Max Utzschneider
Moderator: Jacob Lipton

Spotlight and Systemic Journalism

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Christopher Benson has written a great piece on Spotlight and the problems with an individualistic, rather than a systemic, focus:

[M]erely exposing individual wrongdoers does not go far enough if systemic flaws enable wrongdoing to continue.

That is the driving dramatic question for the movie and the emerging motivation for the Globe journalists.

Even more, though, it is a compelling challenge for the journalism profession on matters of race. Too often, we are content to frame stories about racial conflict as individual problems and not as institutional ones.

College campus tension, excessive police force, even racial political pandering are all framed as anomalies, problems caused by misguided individuals. As with “Spotlight,” that frame excludes what should be our real focus. As a result, we wind up missing a critical realization: We just might be part of the system we are “going after.”

Benson references instances of System Justification Theory, writing:

This is not a left-right bias, or even necessarily a black-white bias. This bias can spring from something seemingly benign — a belief that the system is fundamentally sound. People tend to believe problems only arise when individuals abuse the system. There is an unquestioned belief in the rightness of our institutions.

This tension between targeting bad individuals and focusing on systems is summarized in this dialogue, which Benson quotes:

Baron: “We need to focus on the institution, not the individual priests. Practice and policy …”
Bradlee: “Sounds like we’re going after (Cardinal Bernard Francis) Law.”
Baron: “We’re going after the system.”

I highly recommend reading the full piece, which has as many lessons for law and legal education as it does for journalism, here.

Just Food Conference 2016

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Just Food?
Forum on Land use, rights and ecology

A conference exploring LAND AND THE FOOD SYSTEM: HOW LAND AFFECTS WHAT WE EAT, WHO WE ARE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT WE LIVE IN

March 25–26, 2016

This year’s Just Food? conference will examine the relationship between people and land, primarily through agriculture and food. Conference events will explore the legal, moral, policy, health, historic and environmental aspects of our modern domestic and international food system, with a focus on the intersection of land and justice. The conference will bring together scholars, farmers, activists, practitioners, and other authorities to discuss the growing concerns about who has access to land, how agriculture changes land, and who is marginalized or dispossessed by our current system. Our goal is to educate attendees, empower them to make changes, and engage them in a larger dialogue about food.

A full conference schedule, when it becomes available, will be posted. But please feel free to register here now!

Corruption: Systems or Individuals?

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From New York Review of Books:

People on the left believe that systems are corrupt. People on the right tend to believe that the system (at least as they understand its design) is just fine, and it’s individual people who are too corrupt or too weak to propel it toward its full greatness. Thus partisans of the right lean more toward a version of Thomas Carlyle’s view that history is about great men (and now women, too), which elevates biography to the level of supreme importance, while partisans of the left care less about the outsider’s life story than his criticism of power and how he will challenge it. These differing conceptions dictate how the candidates present themselves and even how they would govern, should one of them become president.