Category Archives: Inequality

New Article: Inner-City Anti Poverty Campaigns

New Article: Anthony Victor Alfieri, Inner-City Anti Poverty Campaigns, UCLA L. Rev. 64 (2017), University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-16. Abstract below:

This Article offers a defense of outsider, legal-political intervention and community triage in inner-city anti-poverty campaigns under circumstances of widespread urban social disorganization, public and private sector neglect, and nonprofit resource scarcity. In mounting this defense, the Article revisits the roles of lawyers, nonprofit legal services organizations, and university-housed law school clinics in contemporary anti-poverty, civil rights, and social justice movements, in part by chronicling the emergence of a faith-based municipal equity movement in Miami, Florida. The Article proceeds in four parts. Part I introduces the notion of community triage as a means of addressing the impoverished and segregated aftermath of urban development in a cluster of postindustrial inner cities. Part II examines the First Wave of antipoverty campaigns launched by pioneering legal services and public interest lawyers and their evolving community triage models. Part III surveys the Second Wave of anti-poverty campaigns pressed by more client- and community-centered legal services and public interest lawyers and their alternative community triage paradigms. Part IV appraises the Third Wave of anti-poverty campaigns kindled by a new generation of legal services and public interest lawyers and their site-specific community triage approaches in the fields of community economic development, environmental justice, low-wage labor, immigration, and municipal equity in order to discern legal-political lessons of inner-city advocacy and organizing. Taken together, the four parts forge a larger legal-political vision imagined and reimagined daily by a new generation of social movement activists and scholars — a renewed vision of theory-driven, clinical practice tied to empirical research and experiential reflection about law and lawyers in action.


New Article: Rebellious Social Movement Lawyering Against Traffic Court Debt

New Article: Veryl Pow, Rebellious Social Movement Lawyering Against Traffic Court Debt, 64 UCLA L. Rev. 1770 (2017). Abstract below:

The prominence of Black Lives Matter in American society today signals the revitalization of alternative forms of participatory democracy—from localized community organizing to widespread social movements—as political expression among racial minorities. For social movement lawyers, this historical moment demands an urgent clarification as to their role and the strategies they should undertake: How should lawyers connect their preexisting advocacy with the broader social movement? Must lawyers be relegated to the background, or might they assume an active role that enhances the leadership of grassroots community members within the movement? What are concrete tools lawyers might deploy in advancing the struggle?

Through a case study of challenging traffic court debt in South Los Angeles, a statewide system that entraps low-income communities of color in cycles of poverty and involvement in the criminal justice system, this Comment proposes a new theory— rebellious social movement lawyering—to resolve these questions. Rebellious social movement lawyering contemplates an active role for lawyers in movements, so long as they are guided by two principles: first, that social movements are necessary to achieve structural social change; and second, that the participation and leadership of grassroots community members, more than professionals and formal social justice organizations, is necessary to sustain such movements. The strategies deployed by rebellious social movement lawyers must be fluid and flexible, ranging from traditional legal devices to confrontational demonstrations, with each decision stemming from community collaboration and the lawyer’s self-questioning as to how a proposed tactic contributes to building the social movement on the one hand, and to enhancing grassroots participation and democracy on the other.

Rebellious social movement lawyering is meant both as a theoretical intervention in rebellious lawyering, movement lawyering, and Critical Race scholarship, and as a methodology to guide public interest legal practitioners. In grounding my theory in a concrete case study, I hope that practitioners across other areas of public interest law will recalibrate their own advocacy as rebellious social movement lawyers working collaboratively to challenge the underlying structures producing material harms for their clients.

New Op-Ed: Bussed Out: How America moves its homeless

New Op-Ed: Outside in America team, Bussed Out: How America moves its homeless,, Dec. 20, 2017.

New Article: Schooling At Risk

New Article: Barbara Fedders, Schooling At Risk, 103 Iowa L. Rev. 871 (2018). Overview below:

The Article proceeds as follows. Part II offers the historical context within which the current form of exclusion is situated. It describes the central norm of universal public education advanced by the 19th century “common school” movement. It details the history of outright bans, and later segregation, of African-American students and students with disabilities. It demonstrates that the notion that these groups were undeserving of education animated those exclusionary practices. Part III demonstrates that while de jure segregation has ended and federal laws now protect students with disabilities, the trope of an undeserving child persists. It supports this contention through detailing the increase in misbehavior-based exclusion and rise of AEPs. It analyzes how the structure and operation of AEPs work to harm rather than help students and thus reinforce notions that the students within them are undeserving. Part IV examines the difficulty of combatting suspension with legal remedies and shows that key legal and legislative strategies that advocates have used to curb the most blatant forms of exclusion are ill-equipped to reform the flaws of the AEP. Looking forward toward possible solutions, Part IV notes as a welcome trend the small but growing number of schools that have implemented alternatives to exclusionary forms of discipline. It concludes by arguing that while individual districts may be able to institute small improvements in AEPs, this particular educational innovation should be abandoned.

New Report: Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing


New Report: National Low Income Housing Coalition, Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing, 2018.

This is the newest annual edition of NLIHC’s report, a vital piece advancing understanding of the affordable housing crisis across the nation.


New Article: Why Flexibility Matters: Inequality and Contract Pluralism

New Article: Jeremiah A. Ho, Why Flexibility Matters: Inequality and Contract Pluralism, U.C. Davis Business Law Journal, Forthcoming, 2017. Abstract below:

In the decade since the Great Recession, various contract scholars have observed that one reason the financial crisis was so “great” was due in part to contract law—or, more precisely, the failures of contract law for not curbing the risky lending practices in the American housing market. However, there is another reason why contracts made that recession so great: contracts furthered inequality. In recent years, when economic inequality has become a dominant national conversation topic, we can see development of that inequality in the Great Recession. And indeed, contract law was complicit. While contractual flexibility and innovation were available to soften the blow of large commercial deals gone wrong during the crisis, residential mortgage defaults across the U.S. were subject to strict contractual formalism that led to severe consequences for those pursuing one of the hallmark prizes of the American Dream, homeownership. Specifically, cases during the Great Recession featured commercial parties relying on the gravity of the Great Recession as the reason why their contract breaches ought to be excused through doctrines such as impracticability. Although impracticability defenses premised on economic changes are usually unconvincing, commercial claimants during the Great Recession had some surprising successes and advantages in taking such positions. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of homeowners, whose abilities to honor their mortgage agreements were also hindered by the economic downturn, could not predicate their defaults on the crisis and get away with it. Instead, they were subject to rigid contract formalism. The entitlement to flexible and innovative excuse arguments seemed particularly exclusive to commercial claimants during the Great Recession. And contract law helped sustain that exclusivity. Therein lies the inequality.

This Article’s ultimate goal is not to argue, like others already have, for the efficacy of expanding contract excuse doctrines in significant times of crisis. Instead, the heart of this Article’s investigation examines, using the example of impracticability arguments during the Great Recession, why commercial parties had more access to flexibility in contracts than others in order to point out how it resonates societally for contracts. Modern contract law furthered inequality when it could have been more instrumental in advancing social mobility and economic opportunity. Thus, this Article’s observations ultimately support the idea that rather than formalism, contract pluralism ought to be adopted in order to give contracts a more meaningful role in furthering a fair and just society.

New Op-Ed: Life Inside D.C.’s Motel Homeless Shelters

DC homelessness motels

New Op-Ed: Morgan Baskin, Life Inside D.C.’s Motel Homeless Shelters, Wash. City Paper, June 28, 2018.

New Article: Shifting the Scope: How Taking School Demographics Into Account in College Admissions Could Reduce K-12 Segregation Nationwide

New Article: Thomas Scott-Railton, Note, Shifting the Scope: How Taking School Demographics Into Account in College Admissions Could Reduce K-12 Segregation Nationwide, 36 Yale L. & Pol’y Rev. 219 (2017). Abstract below:

Deepening racial and socioeconomic segregation is producing unequal educational outcomes at the K-12 level, outcomes that are then reproduced in higher education. This is particularly true as rising competition among colleges has led many of them to focus increasingly on measures of merit that correlate with income and as parents and students adjust their behavior in light of those metrics. While existing affirmative action programs at colleges provide some counterweight to this dynamic, they are limited by institutional (and constitutional) constraints. Out of concern for revenue and rankings, many colleges are constrained in the number of students from low-income backgrounds they are willing to admit. Such a limited scope is not inevitable, however.

If colleges were to give a substantial admissions bonus to applicants who had attended K-12 schools with at least a certain percentage of low-income students, higher education could become a force for countering inequality at the K-12 level, instead of reproducing it. College admissions policies serve as a crucial reference point for parents, students, and educators on down through K-12. By rewarding applicants for attending socioeconomically integrated schools, colleges would mobilize the resources of private actors across the country towards integration. The benefits of this would be significant, especially for students from low-income families who would have an increased chance of attending integrated K-12 schools as a result. Such a policy would also help colleges better foster diversity on campuses, as more students would have had prior experience in integrated settings.

This Note explores the ongoing problem of K-12 re-segregation, argues that by adopting this policy colleges could work to promote integration, examines how such a policy could best be designed to do so, and addresses why such a policy would be constitutional. At a time when educational inequality is on the rise, there is an urgent need for new affirmative action proposals that can combat segregation and do so within colleges’ existing constitutional and institutional constraints. The policy proposal advocated in this Note would do both, interrupting key elements of the present vicious circle.

New Op-Ed: The situation on the streets

SF homelessness

New Op-Ed: Kevin Fagan, The situation on the streets, San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 2018.

New Article: The Rise and Fall of New York Public Housing: An Oral History

NY public housingNew Article: Luis Ferré-Sadurní, The Rise and Fall of New York Public Housing: An Oral History,, June 26, 2018.