Category Archives: deserving/undeserving

New Jotwell Review: “Recognizing Disgust, Repudiating Exile”

Here: Marc-Tizoc González, Recognizing Disgust, Repudiating Exile, JOTWELL (October 25, 2016) (reviewing Sara K. Rankin, The Influence of Exile, 76 Md. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016), available at SSRN),

News Article: “In ‘By the People,’ Designing for the Underserved and Overlooked”

News Article: Michael Kimmelman, “In ‘By the People,’ Designing for the Underserved and Overlooked,” New York Times, Sept. 29, 2016.

Article: “Rebellious Strains in Transactional Lawyering for Underserved Entrepreneurs and Community Groups”

New Article: Paul R. Tremblay, Rebellious Strains in Transactional Lawyering for Underserved Entrepreneurs and Community Groups, 23 Clinical L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016).

In his 1992 book Rebellious Lawyering: One Chicano’s Vision of Progressive Law Practice, Gerald López disrupted the conventional understandings of what it meant to be an effective poverty lawyer or public interest attorney. His critiques and prescriptions were aimed at litigators and lawyers similarly engaged in struggles for social change. His book did not address the role of progressive transactional lawyers. Today, transactional lawyers working in underserved communities are far more common. This Essay seeks to apply López’s critiques to the work of those practitioners.

I argue here that transactional legal services, or TLS, on behalf of subordinated clients achieves many of the aims of the Rebellious Lawyering project. I separate TLS on behalf of individual entrepreneurs from a more collective TLS on behalf of community or worker groups. For practitioners working with entrepreneurs, the Essay observes that client power, control, and autonomy are more readily achieved, albeit through what López might describe as quite regnant practices. Those practices, I argue, are fully justified in this context. What TLS for entrepreneurs does not accomplish, though, is community mobilization, a downside that is regrettable but not a reason to eschew that kind of work. Collective TLS provides all of the upsides of entrepreneurial TLS while not sacrificing mobilization goals. That version of TLS, though, does present two of its own challenges, one triggered by the complexity and sophistication of the legal issues involved in may community economic development projects, and the second resulting from the nature of group representation.

New Book: “The Poverty Law Canon: Exploring the Major Cases”

Poverty Canon CoverI am excited to announce that The Poverty Law Canon: Exploring the Major Cases (Marie Failinger & Ezra Rosser eds., Univ. of Michigan Press, 2016) is now published and available through both the Michigan Press website and Amazon, etc (the library edition is $95 and the paperback is $39.95).

I have a bit more to say about this book, below, but first I want to highlight the contents of the book.  The book came out of a 2013 conference and features a great group of contributors as can be seen from the chapter list:


Introduction – Ezra Rosser

Part I: Victories

When Paupers Became People: Edwards v. California (1941) – Clare Pastore

Remaking the “Law of the Poor”: Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co. (1965)  – Anne Fleming

Sylvester Smith, Unlikely Heroine: King v. Smith (1968) – Henry Freedman

Legal Services Attorneys and Migrant Advocates Join Forces: Shapiro v. Thompson (1969)  – Elisa Alvarez Minoff

Dignity and Passion: Goldberg v. Kelly (1970) – Melanie B. Abbott

Litigating in the Zeitgeist: Rosado v. Wyman (1970) – Wendy A. Bach

Part II: Losses

A Sweeping Refusal of Equal Protection: Dandridge v. Williams (1970) – Julie A. Nice

Privacy as a Luxury Not for the Poor: Wyman v. James (1971) – Michele Estrin Gilman

A Tragedy of Two Americas: Jefferson v. Hackney (1972) – Marie A. Failinger

Denying the Poor Access to Court: United States v. Kras (1973) – Henry Rose

“The Poor People Have Lost Again”: San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973) – Camille Walsh

Part III: The Modern Era

Reflecting and Foreshadowing: Mathews v. Eldridge (1976) – John J. Capowski

Chronicle of a Debt Foretold: Zablocki v. Red Hail (1978) – Tonya L. Brito, R. Kirk Anderson, and Monica Wedgewood

The Movement for a Right to Counsel in Civil Cases: Turner v. Rogers (2011) – Kelly Terry

Public Housing as Housing of Last Resort: Department of Housing and Urban Development v. Rucker (2002) – Nestor M. Davidson


As with any effort to put together a list of important cases, there are cases that arguably should have been included and/or excluded; the chapters represent a combination of the importance of the cases and the interests of the contributors.  But I hope this book will be of interest to those interested in poverty or poverty law in the United States.

“The contributors include some of the best academics who write and teach about poverty. The back stories of these cases are multidimensionally interesting—the clients, the legal strategies, the lawyers themselves, the historical and political context, the effect on the law, the backstage of the Supreme Court and the role of the law clerks.” – Peter Edelman

As one of the editors, I want to thank Michigan Press for taking a chance on this book, Marie Failinger for being such a great co-editor, and all the contributors for their patience as this book made its slow way from idea to something that can be picked up.

I want to end on a personal note.  I see The Poverty Law Canon as being closely related to the Juliet Brodie, Clare Pastore, Ezra Rosser & Jeff Selbin, Poverty Law, Policy, and Practice (2014) in that both are efforts to think through and share the connection between poverty and law in a manner that hopefully will appeal to scholars and students.  The books are linked in my mind, and not only because of the work involved.  I dedicated my role on the textbook to my late father-in-law, Mario Castro, and my part of the dedication page of The Poverty Law Canon reads:

To my students and to my colleagues and mentors at American University Washington College of Law, especially Susan Bennett, Claudio Grossman, and Ira Robbins. It is a privilege to get to teach and write in your company.

Thanks for putting up with this long aside, now buy your copy and tell your librarian to do the same!  =)

New Article: “The Influence of Exile”

New Article: Sara K. Rankin, The Influence of Exile, 76 Md. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2016).  Abstract below:

Belonging is a fundamental human need. But human instincts are Janus-faced: equally strong is the drive to exclude. This exclusive impulse, which this Article calls “the influence of exile,” reaches beyond interpersonal dynamics when empowered groups use laws and policies to restrict marginalized groups’ access to public space. Jim Crow, Anti-Okie, and Sundown Town laws are among many notorious examples. But the influence of exile perseveres today: it has found a new incarnation in the stigmatization and spatial regulation of visible poverty, as laws that criminalize and eject visibly poor people from public space proliferate across the nation. These laws reify popular attitudes toward visible poverty, harming not only the visibly poor, but also society as a whole. This Article seeks to expose and explain how the influence of exile operates; in doing so, it argues against the use of the criminal justice system as a response to visible poverty. In its place, the Article argues for more effective and efficient responses that take as their starting point an individual right to exist in public space, which for many visibly poor people is tantamount to a right to exist at all.

Editor’s Note: I just finished reading this article and it is interesting not only for its text, but for the rich sources collected in the footnotes that give examples of demonizing and blaming the visible poor. Congrats Sara!

New Book Chapter: “Personal Responsibility for Systemic Inequality”

New Book Chapter: Martha T. McCluskey, Personal Responsibility for Systemic Inequality, in RESEARCH HANDBOOK ON POLITICAL ECONOMY AND THE LAW, Ugo Mattei and John D. Haskell, eds., pp. 227-45 (Edward Elgar 2015).  Abstract below:

Equality has faded as a guiding ideal for legal theory and policy. An updated message of personal responsibility has helped rationalize economic policies fostering increased inequality and insecurity. In this revised message, economic “losers” should take personal responsibility not only for the harmful effects of their individual economic decisions, but also for the harmful effects of systemic failures beyond their individual control or action. In response to the 2008 financial crisis, this re-tooled message of personal responsibility promoted mass austerity in place of targeted financial industry culpability and penalty. By presenting unequal economic loss as the inevitable result of generally beneficial systems, this flawed logic concludes that the most legitimate response to systemic failure is unequal personal sacrifice, not political mobilization in support of stronger protection from unequal risk and plunder.

This chapter explores how this message weakened the majority report of Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, despite its voluminous evidence of institutional problems. Further, it shows how this message inverts legal responsibility for devastating corporate wrongdoing, so that sacrifice by innocent victims appears to be more productive and proper than fair and meaningful law enforcement. Finally, I analyze how this troubling message is implicitly advanced in the seemingly progressive intellectual defense of equality by legal scholar Daniel Markovits. Markovits challenges the traditional personal responsibility argument that unequal poverty and insecurity stem from bad individual choices. Yet because he assumes that this inequality generally comes from benign institutions limited by natural scarcity, his reasoning nonetheless tends to suggest that responsible policy requires accepting substantial individual sacrifice by those who lose out. To instead revive the ideal of equality, we must go further to challenge the assumption that political economic structures and institutions regularly producing unequal and severe economic harm deserve submission rather than reform.

Conservative News Article On Rural Poverty: “The White Ghetto”

Conservative Coverage of Rural Poverty: Kevin D. Williamson, “The White Ghetto,” The National Review, Jan. 9, 2014.

NOTE: for reasons that will be clear if you read this, I hesitated to post this article.  But I do think it could be good material for a classroom discussion and manages to be interesting at times and regardless of your political leanings also  offensive at other times.

Court rejects Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s drug testing of welfare applicants | The Miami Herald

Court rejects Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s drug testing of welfare applicants | The Miami Herald.

Roundtable: “Re-evaluating the “Culture of Poverty””

Here: Re-evaluating the “Culture of Poverty” » The Society Pages [featuring Mark Gold, Kaaryn Gustafson, and Mario Luis Small].

Report: “A Lifetime of Punishment: The Impact of the Felony Drug Ban on Welfare Benefits”

Report: Marc Mauer & Virginia McCalmont, A Lifetime of Punishment: The Impact of the  Felony Drug Ban on Welfare Benefits (Sentencing Project, Revised version 2014).