Category Archives: Community Activism

New Article: Ten Ways of Looking at Movement Lawyering

New Article: William P. Quigley, Ten Ways of Looking at Movement Lawyering, 5 How. Hum. & C.R.L. Rev. 23 (2020). Abstract Below:

History shows us that social change comes about when directly impacted people get together and demand justice in social movements. The world needs more lawyers who will partner with and learn alongside the people struggling for justice. That is what movement lawyering is. This is an introduction to Movement Lawyering for those who are just learning about it. And a refresher for those familiar with the idea who want more information.

Article: The Institutional Design of Community Control

Article: K. Sabeel Rahman and Jocelyn Simonson, The Institutional Design of Community Control, 108 Cali. L. Rev. 679 (2020). Abstract below:

A growing set of social movements has in recent years revived interest in “community control,” the idea that local residents should exercise power over services like the police, infrastructure, and schools. These range from a call from the Partnership for Working Families, a grassroots coalition, to build community control through the direct democratic governance of local infrastructure, to the push from the Movement for Black Lives, a racial justice coalition, to institute community control of law enforcement agencies. For these movement reformers, community control grants local communities greater power over both the levers of urban policy-making and the direction of local services and resources. These social movement visions of community control offer a real-time exploration of potentially transformative institutional designs to shift power in a more equitable direction.

This Article uses two current movement governance proposals—community control of the police and community control of local economic development—to develop a broader, transsubstantive framework for analyzing how local governance institutions might shift power and attempt to redress inequality. We identify three key dimensions along which to analyze the potential for power-shifting and contestation in local governance: the nature of authority, the composition of the governing body, and the moment of authority. Community control may or may not be part of the answer to longstanding structural inequality. But it is still worth exploring the dynamics of local governance that can (or cannot) facilitate contestation, build power, and push back on the antidemocratic structures of law themselves. This Article begins to take on that task.

Build Power, Fight Power Course: A Five Part Course on Movement Lawyering

Build Power, Fight Power Course: A Five Part Course on Movement Lawyering
Spend the summer learning how to use law to build a world that is better for people and the planet.

A group of movement lawyering practitioners & educators, in collaboration with Movement Law Lab invite you to register for Build Power / Fight Power: a 5-Part Course on Movement Lawyering. Times of upheaval are also times of great opportunity and change. Lawyers and legal workers of conscience are needed now more than ever to support the people’s resistance be it the Movement for Black Lives, COVID-19 rapid-response, workers’ rights, climate change, immigrant rights, and more. Yet movement lawyering is not what most of us we were exposed to in law school or  what we are trained and encouraged to do as legal practitioners. 

Some of us are ready and willing to support these movements, but aren’t sure how to help. Others of us don’t know what movement lawyering means, but know that doing case after case isn’t going to solve the problems of our clients. Finally some of us are already connected and volunteering for movements, but this moment presents new challenges that we haven’t seen before. We believe, this moment asks us to think differently about our work. To find news ways to approach our cases, new partnerships, new thought-partners and new strategies. We created this course to help all legal advocates—the experienced and the newly committed—learn and reflect together on how we can use our skills to support movements fighting for transformative change rooted in people power.


This course is an introduction on how to use law to build the power of social justice movements. It will offer you guidance no matter which movement or organized community you are trying to support. From movements of low-wage workers, youth of color, climate justice activists, indigenous communities, the immigrants’ rights movement, survivors of abuse, people coming out of prison, or people fighting to end systemic racism—if you want to use your legal skills to build a world that is better for people and the planet, then this course is for you.

WHO IS ORGANIZING THIS COURSE? This course is being organized by Movement Law Lab and taught by a collective of experienced movement lawyers across the country. We work at a range of institutions, we represent different progressive movements, we have diverse expertise and skill-sets, but we are united in our belief that law is best used as a tool to shift power, culture and systems.

WHAT WILL THE COURSE COVER? The course will consist of presentations on: key theories of social change and concepts of movement lawyering, storytelling from experienced movement lawyers, as well as tools and resources to help integrate movement lawyering approaches into your current work. In addition, we hope to build a meaningful learning/practice community that will extend beyond the sessions and continue to build a national community of lawyers dedicated to supporting mass movements and grassroots organizing. 

WHAT IS THE COURSE FORMAT? This course consists of five interactive online sessions running from July 8 – September 11, 2020. Sessions 1, 2 and 5 will be in plenary format—all of us will be in one session. Sessions 3 and 4 will be reoccurring and participants will have the ability to choose amongst a variety of dates. All sessions will be between 1.5 to 2 hours and will be recorded. There will be a course website with a discussion board and access to session recordings. Participants are strongly encouraged to register only if they can commit to attend all five sessions. 

WHO IS THIS COURSE FOR? Any lawyers, legal workers, or law students interested in learning how to use law to create social change and support movements. We strongly encourage legal advocates coming from marginalized and/or non-traditional backgrounds to register—this space is for you: i.e. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous or other people of color), women, queer/transgender people, people from low-income backgrounds, and/or people who are formerly incarcerated.

WHAT DOES THE COURSE COST? The course is free. However, we encourage those who can to make a donation to help cover the costs of the course. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

ACCESSIBILITY: All sessions will be virtual using Zoom and/or streaming to Facebook and will have either ASL or live-captioning.

News Coverage: The Language Around Homelessness Is Finally Changing

News Coverage: Alissa Walker and Emma Alpern, The Language Around Homelessness Is Finally Changing, Curbed (June 11, 2020) (

News Coverage: Beverly Hills, Buckhead, SoHo: The New Sites of Urban Unrest

News Coverage: Emily Badger, Beverly Hills, Buckhead, SoHo: The New Sites of Urban Unrest, N.Y. Times (June 2, 2020).

New Blog Post: From Gentrification to Decline: How Neighborhoods Really Change

concentration of povertyNew Blog Post: Tanvi Misra, From Gentrification to Decline: How Neighborhoods Really Change,, Apr. 10, 2019.

New Blog Post: The Utter Inadequacy of America’s Efforts to Desegregate Schools

desegregationNew Blog Post: Alana Semuels, The Utter Inadequacy of America’s Efforts to Desegregate Schools,, Apr. 12, 2019.

New Book: Out in the Rural: A Mississippi Health Center and Its War on Poverty

out in the rural.jpgNew Book: Thomas J. Ward, Out in the Rural: A Mississippi Health Center and Its War on Poverty (2016).  Overview below:

Ward (Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South), chair of the history department at Spring Hill College (Ala.), celebrates the nation’s first rural community health center and its groundbreaking mission to provide medical care and be “an instrument of social change” in the impoverished Mississippi Delta region. In this densely packed chronicle, Ward covers the growth of the Tufts-Delta Health Center from a small health clinic in 1967—opening amid skepticism from both black and white communities—to its unique role as a medical center and organizer of programs addressing rampant malnutrition, poor maternal and child healthcare, unsafe drinking water and sewage disposal, and hunger. Woven throughout are vivid portraits of the clinic’s founders, including H. Jack Geiger, the “father of community health”; community organizer John Hatch; environmental services director Andrew James; and farm expert L.C. Dorsey. Ward argues that the center’s true measure of success is its enduring legacy as one of the first of “more than 1,200 community health centers in the U.S.” Ward shows that “in both practical and symbolic terms, the Tufts-Delta Health Center was a radical assault on both the medical and social status quo”—and that story is as urgent today as it was a half century ago.

New Article: Things Fall Apart: Hard Choices in Public Interest Law

New Article: Anthony Victor Alfieri, Things Fall Apart: Hard Choices in Public Interest Law, 31 Georgetown J. L. Ethics 335 (2018).  Abstract below:

This essay frames the dilemmas of law school clinic and public interest law firm triage decision-making against the backdrop of the current national crisis in access to justice. The essay coincides with a moment of renewed academic interest and resurgent legal activism in inner cities for advocates pursuing law reform campaigns, academics studying social justice movements, and activists organizing low-income communities, especially historically burdened communities of color. The essay proceeds in four parts. Part I briefly traces the history of a community-based law reform campaign recently advanced in Miami and the nettlesome public interest legal ethics questions left in its wake. Part II examines the basic form and content of public interest law triage regimes and the difficult dilemmas of lawyer and law firm triage decision-making in the context of community-based advocacy. Part III considers the dominant norms and practices of the community lawyering movement explicated by the founders of the Community Justice Project, a path breaking Florida public interest law firm and a national leader in the field of social justice. Part IV assesses an alternative set of norms and practices of social justice lawyering deduced from current work on the ethics of movement lawyering.

New Report: A Guide to Understanding and Addressing Vacant Property

New Report: Rise, Saint Louis University Law Clinic, Tower Grove Neighborhoods CDC, A Guide to Understanding and Addressing Vacant Property.

This Guide is intended to help local government officials, neighborhood associations, community-based nonprofits, residents, business owners, and other stakeholders better understand how to work together to use existing tools to address vacant property in the City of St. Louis.

Since 1876, St. Louis has been an independent city, which means that it is not part of any county. Therefore, it operates as both a city and a county. St. Louis is the only city in Missouri that operates its own county offices. This unusual structure means that effectively addressing the vacant property challenge requires coordination not only across City departments, but also across city and county functions.

There are a variety of legal tools and enforcement strategies to address vacancy, and using these tools and strategies effectively requires a coordinated effort from a variety of local government and private actors. Reducing the negative impact of vacancy is like a complex puzzle, requiring coordination and collaboration among the public sector, private stakeholders, and neighborhood leaders to achieve a shared vision.