Category Archives: Gender Issues

New Book: “Women and Justice for the Poor A History of Legal Aid, 1863–1945”

BaltanNew Book: Felice Batlan, Women and Justice for the Poor A History of Legal Aid, 1863–1945 (2015).  Abstract below:

This book re-examines fundamental assumptions about the American legal profession and the boundaries between “professional” lawyers, “lay” lawyers, and social workers. Putting legal history and women’s history in dialogue, it demonstrates that nineteenth-century women’s organizations first offered legal aid to the poor and that middle-class women functioning as lay lawyers, provided such assistance. Felice Batlan illustrates that by the early twentieth century, male lawyers founded their own legal aid societies. These new legal aid lawyers created an imagined history of legal aid and a blueprint for its future in which women played no role and their accomplishments were intentionally omitted. In response, women social workers offered harsh criticisms of legal aid leaders and developed a more robust social work model of legal aid. These different models produced conflicting understandings of expertise, professionalism, the rule of law, and ultimately, the meaning of justice for the poor.

Conference: “Poverty and Reproductive Justice: When Choice is a Privilege, Not a Right” – Mar. 23, 2015 in DC

Conference: “Poverty and Reproductive Justice: When Choice is a Privilege, Not a Right” – Mar. 23, 2015 at American University Washington College of Law, Washington, DC.

News Article: Domestic Violence Drives Up New York Shelter Population as Housing Options Are Scarce –

Domestic Violence Drives Up New York Shelter Population as Housing Options Are Scarce –

Wages for Housework – Room for Debate –

Wages for Housework – Room for Debate – [featuring, among others, Noah Zatz].

Call-for-Papers: “Applied Feminism and Work” — Univ. of Baltimore, Mar. 5-6, 2015.

Call-for-Papers: “Applied Feminism and Work” — Univ. of Baltimore, Mar. 5-6, 2015.  Deadline for submissions is Oct. 31, 2014.  The call and additional information can be found here.  

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw: My Brother’s Keeper Ignores Young Black Women –

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw: My Brother’s Keeper Ignores Young Black Women –

New Article: “Urbanormativity, Judicial Blind Spots and Abortion Law”

New Article: Lisa R. Pruitt & Marta R. Vanegas, Urbanormativity, Judicial Blind Spots and Abortion Law, Berkeley J. Gender L. & J., forthcoming 2015.  Abstract below:

State laws regulating abortion have proliferated dramatically in recent years. Twenty-two states adopted 70 different restrictions in 2013 alone. Between 2011 and 2013, state legislatures passed 205 abortion restrictions, exceeding the 189 enacted during the entire prior decade. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently upheld as constitutional several such restrictions, parts of Texas H.B. 2 (2013), in Planned Parenthood of Texas v. Abbott. That court is currently considering the constitutionality of a similar Mississippi law. These and other recent cases raise issues likely to be heard soon by the U.S. Supreme Court. Among the regulations at stake in Texas H.B. 2 was a requirement that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. The Texas law also limits the use of medication-induced abortions.

Rarely acknowledged in academic literature or media coverage of these laws and constitutional litigation arising from them is the fact that the greatest impact of these regulations — like that of many other state abortion laws enacted since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey — is on those who live farthest from major metropolitan areas, where abortion providers tend to be located. Indeed, these laws exact the greatest toll on women who are both rural and poor. We argue that, contrary to the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Abbott, these laws place undue burdens on the abortion rights of a significant number of women and that they should be declared unconstitutional.

In addition to these doctrinal arguments, we draw on three complementary critical frames — legal geography, the concept of privilege, and rural studies concept of urbanormativity — to articulate new ways of thinking about the recent spate of so-called incremental abortion regulations and federal courts’ adjudication of the constitutionality of these laws. First, legal geography provides a frame for theorizing the relationship between the abortion regulations and rurality, revealing how law’s impact is variegated and variable, dictating different outcomes from place to place because of spatial differences. Second, we deploy the concept of privilege in arguing that many federal judges are spatially privileged but blind to that privilege. In our increasingly metro-centric nation, where rural populations are dwindling and marginalized literally and symbolically, most federal appellate judges appear to have little experience with or understanding of typical socio-spatial features of rurality: transport challenges, a dearth of services, lack of anonymity, and frequently extreme socioeconomic disadvantage. Yet those same spatially privileged judges are applying the undue burden standard to laws that require women to travel hundreds of miles, sometimes on multiple occasions, to access abortion services. Those judges are also typically upholding laws that burden women’s access to medication-induced abortions, which have the potential to ameliorate rural women’s spatial burdens. This spatial privilege and judges’ obliviousness to it are most evident among U.S. Courts of Appeal judges and Supreme Court justices construing the “undue burden” standard, as evinced most recently in Abbott but also on display in Casey v. Planned Parenthood and in many U.S. Courts of Appeals decisions in Casey’s wake. The spatial privilege phenomenon is closely linked to the third frame: critical rural studies’ concept of urbanormativity. By treating urban life as a benchmark for what is normal and, in Abbott, dismissing as constitutionally insignificant some ten percent of Texas women who live more than 100 miles from an abortion provider, federal appellate judges are increasingly articulating an urbanormative jurisprudence.

New Book: “Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships”

HuntingtonNew Book: Clare Huntington, Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships (2014).  Description below:

Exploring the connection between families and inequality, Failure to Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships argues that the legal regulation of families stands fundamentally at odds with the needs of families. Strong, stable, positive relationships are essential for both individuals and society to flourish, but from transportation policy to the criminal justice system, and from divorce rules to the child welfare system, the legal system makes it harder for parents to provide children with these kinds of relationships, exacerbating the growing inequality in America.

Failure to Flourish contends that we must re-orient the legal system to help families avoid crises and, when conflicts arise, intervene in a manner that heals relationships. To understand how wrong our family law system has gone and what we need to repair it, Failure to Flourish takes us from ancient Greece to cutting-edge psychological research, and from the chaotic corridors of local family courts to a quiet revolution under way in how services are provided to families in need. Incorporating the latest insights of positive psychology and social science research, the book sets forth a new, more emotionally intelligent vision for a legal system that not only resolves conflict but actively encourages the healthy relationships that are at the core of a stable society.

Conference: “Gender and Social Inequality: Why Women’s Rights Still Matter” UPenn Feb. 21, 2014

Info here.

Two New Articles related to Homelessness by Sara Rankin

The articles are here:

Sara Rankin, A Homeless Bill of Rights (Revolution), working paper 2014.  Abstract below:

This Article examines an emerging movement so far unexplored by legal scholarship: the proposal, and in some states, the enactment of a Homeless Bill of Rights. This Article presents these new laws as a lens to re-examine storied debates over positive and social welfare rights. Homeless bills of rights also present a compelling opportunity to re-examine rights-based theories in the context of social movement scholarship. Specifically, could these laws be understood as part of a new “rights revolution”? What conditions might influence the impact of these new laws on the individual rights of the homeless or the domiciled? On American rights culture and consciousness?

The Article surveys current efforts to advance homeless bills of rights across eight states and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and evaluates these case studies from a social movement perspective. Ultimately, the Article predicts that these new laws are more likely to have an incremental social and normative impact than an immediate legal impact. Even so, homeless bills of rights are a critical, if slight, step to advance the rights of one of the most vulnerable segments of contemporary society. Perhaps as significantly, these new laws present an opportunity for domiciled Americans to confront our collective, deeply-rooted biases against the homeless.

Sara Rankin, Invidious Deliberation: The Problem of Congressional Bias in Federal Hate Crime Legislation, Rutgers L. Rev. forthcoming.  Abstract below:

The intersection of power and prejudice can control the shape of statutory law, and yet a dearth of legal scholarship investigates it. Invidious Deliberation addresses that deficit. It tackles the problem of prejudice in Congressional deliberations at a particularly critical point: when Congress decides which groups to protect under federal hate crime legislation. The Article contends that Congress’s own bias may exclude the most vulnerable groups from hate crime protection.

To illustrate the point, this Article systematically reviews over two decades of Congressional decisions with respect to expansions of the Hate Crime Statistics Act, a “gateway” for groups seeking protection under federal hate crime legislation. The review concludes that Congress exhibited greater resistance to constructing animus against gays, lesbians, and the homeless as morally or legally wrong, especially in comparison to the other covered groups. Invidious Deliberation argues this Congressional resistance is not attributable to an equitable, principled deliberation process; instead, it is an expression of “unrecognized” bias against unpopular groups. To mitigate the impact of Congressional bias, this Article proposes that Congress explicitly and consistently use a set of principled criteria — such as suspect classification factors — to assess candidate groups.