New Article: Karen Czapanskiy, Structured Settlement Sales and Lead-Poisoned Sellers: Just Say No, SSRN, Aug. 2017. Abstract below:
After Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore in 2015, his life became the subject of intense interest. Like both of his sisters and many of his neighbors in West Baltimore, Gray had experienced lead poisoning in a rental house when he was young. He suffered permanent neurological injuries that deprived him of the capacity for self-support as an adult. Gray’s mother sued the landlord on behalf of him and his sisters. The suit was settled with the funding of a structured settlement which provided each child with a regular stipend that would begin when they reached majority and provide a substitute for regular earnings for a number of years. In the year before Gray’s death, however, he and his sisters sold portions of their rights to the income stream for a lump sum payment that seemed to many observers to be unjustifiably low. A reporter for the Washington Post started to dig into the Gray sales and the sales of other young people who had gotten structured settlements because of lead poisoning and sold them in exchange for lump sum payments. What he reported shocked his readers and embarrassed the court system.
Under federal and state law, a state court is supposed to review any proposed sales of benefits under a structured settlement. In the cases uncovered by the Washington Post, however, judicial “supervision” had occurred in a courthouse forty miles from Baltimore, where most of the sellers lived. Most cases were assigned to the same judge, who held hearings on the petitions lasting just a few minutes before granting them. Sellers rarely appeared. In the months following the Washington Post articles, the standards and procedures governing petitions for the sale of structured settlement benefits were strengthened through the enactment of procedural rules and amendments to the state’s Structured Settlement Protection Act. Maryland’s law is now one of the most robust in the nation.
The question for this article is whether young adults like Freddie Gray should be allowed to sell an income stream provided under a structured settlement when lead poisoning has left them without the capacity to support themselves. I argue that the answer should be no. Commentators and lawmakers agree that some kind of protection should be provided before such sales should be allowed. After considering the protective alternatives that have been used or proposed, I conclude that none of them is an adequate substitute for an outright ban.
New Pathways : “State of the Union 2017” (Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality 2017). Table of contents below:
Are our country’s policies for reducing racial and ethnic inequalities getting the job done? The simple answer: No.
Even after the recovery, 1 in 9 African Americans and 1 in 6 Hispanics fear a job loss within one year. Why?
We remain two Americas: a high-poverty America for blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans, and a (relatively) low-poverty America for whites and Asians.
The safety net, which is supposed to serve an equalizing function, sometimes works to exacerbate racial and ethnic inequalities within the low-income population.
Whereas 1 in 6 black and Hispanic households dedicate at least half of their income to housing costs, only 1 in 12 white households do. How did that happen?
Between 1990 and 2015, average academic performance improved for students of all racial and ethnic groups, but grew fastest among black and Hispanic students. The result: White-black and white-Hispanic achievement gaps declined by 15 to 25 percent.
Did you think that all that talk about criminal justice reform has brought about a sea change in racial inequalities in incarceration? Think again.
Large and persistent racial gaps in health are not the product of our genes but the consequences of our policies and history.
Between 1970 and 2010, the earnings gap between whites and other groups has narrowed, but most of that decline was secured in the immediate aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement.
African-Americans have less than 8 cents and Hispanics less than 10 cents of wealth for every dollar amassed by whites.
The persistence of poverty has long been stronger for blacks than whites. However, beginning with generations that came of age in the mid-1960s, the white-black gap in the chance of escaping poverty has closed significantly.
New Article: Emily A. Benfer, Contaminated Childhood: How the United States Failed to Prevent the Chronic Lead Poisoning of Low-Income Children and Communities of Color, forthcoming Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 2017. Abstract below:
Lead poisoning has plagued society for centuries, dating back to the Roman Empire. Children and adults exposed to the neurotoxin regularly experience an elevated risk for permanent brain damage, disability, and, at higher levels, death. Despite scientific evidence of the dangers of lead, the heavy metal was commonly used throughout civilization and quickly integrated into the American home in the form of paint containing up to 70% lead. At the same time, lead smelters and leaded gasoline left a toxic footprint across the United States. Today, over twenty-three million homes contain one or more lead hazards and thirty-eight million have lead-based paint that will eventually become a lead hazard if not closely monitored and maintained; the majority of those homes are located in impoverished and marginalized communities of color. Federal laws and policies have consistently failed to prevent lead poisoning in these areas, depriving low-income, minority children of equal opportunity and trapping generations in poverty. Federally subsidized housing programs are intended to provide safe, decent, and affordable housing for low-income families. These homes are often clustered in areas with high rates of lead poisoning and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated in 2016 that 450,000 federally assisted housing units were built before 1978 and likely contain lead-based paint. Federal law governing these homes takes a “wait and see” approach that delays lead hazard inspections of a home until after a child is lead poisoned. Rather than requiring lead hazard risk assessments that could identify and control sources of lead poisoning before a child resides in the home, according to federal regulations, the child must develop lead poisoning at levels more than four times the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards before the government requires any intervention. This policy places millions of children annually at risk of permanent neurological damage. This Article describes how lead poisoning policies governing federally assisted housing perpetuate health inequities, increase socioeconomic and racial inequality among low-income and minority children, and thwart the promise of multiple civil rights laws and policies. It examines the legislative history of federal lead poisoning prevention laws, including compromises that resulted in ineffective laws. Finally, with the aim of identifying policies that abide by principles of health justice, this Article proposes urgent reform measures to end the lead poisoning epidemic.
Here: Ezra Rosser, Op-Ed, “Trumpcare and the Successful Campaign to Punish the Poor,” CommonDreams.org, May 5, 2017.