Category Archives: Legal Academia

Announcement: Launch of the Economic Justice Program at American University Washington College of Law

We are happy to announce the launch of the Economic Justice Program (EJP) at American University Washington College of Law, Though still in its early stages, the Economic Justice Program aims to advance the rights and interests of the poor and vulnerable by connecting students, advocates, and practitioners who share a commitment to anti-poverty work and by creating opportunities and space within the academy for such work.

The poverty law blog,, will keep its same website address, but you will notice a couple of changes.  First, the lead photo is now the EJP logo, but more importantly, we hope to expand a bit from a platform for sharing content from other sources (scholarship and news articles) to a site that also includes original commentary and work connected to the rapidly evolving poverty law landscape.

As part of the EJP’s effort to connect the academy with grounded work, we welcome ideas from practitioners—lawyers or community advocates—for research and writing projects which students can do as part of their upper level writing requirement or as possible student notes.  Please email any ideas you have for useful research topics or issues to

We are also hoping to create a collection of public interest job search guides, so if you know of a resource that would be good to share with students, please let us know.  A lot of good guides, tools, and websites already exist and we hope to collect those for students.

Finally, if you have jobs or internships, during the summer or during the school year, for law students or for recent graduates, please share those with us.  We know many great students who would love the opportunity to do meaningful internships, gain valuable experience, and help out communities in need, so please email us at so we can help connect your organization with these eager students.


News Article: UNC May Bar Centers From Legal Work

News Article:Scott Jaschik, UNC May Bar Centers From Legal Work, Inside Higher Ed (Feb. 27, 2017).

Article: ‘Equal Right to the Poor’

Article: Richard M. Re, ‘Equal Right to the Poor,’ U. Chicago L. Rev. (forthcoming 2017).

By law, federal judges must swear or affirm that they will “do equal right to the poor and to the rich.” This frequently overlooked oath, which I call the “equal right principle,” has historical roots dating back to the Bible and entered U.S. law in a statute passed by the First Congress. Today, the equal right principle is often understood to require only that judges faithfully apply other laws. But that reading, like the idea that the rich and poor are equally barred from sleeping under bridges, is questionable in light of the equal right principle’s text, context, and history.

This Article argues that the equal right principle supplies at least a plausible basis for federal judges to promote substantive economic equality when implementing underdetermined sources of law. There are many implications. For example, the equal right principle suggests that federal courts may legitimately limit the poor’s disadvantages in the adjudicative and legislative processes by expanding counsel rights and interpreting statutes with an eye toward economically vulnerable groups. The equal right principle should also inform what qualifies as a compelling or legitimate governmental interest within campaign finance jurisprudence, as well as whether to implement “under-enforced” equal protection principles.

More broadly, the equal right principle should play a more central role in constitutional culture. The United States is unusual in that its fundamental law is relatively silent on issues of economic equality. The equal right principle can fill that void by providing a platform for legal and public deliberation over issues of wealth inequality. Through judicial confirmation hearings and other forms of public contestation, the equal right principle can help to specify federal judges’ legal and moral commitments toward the poor.

Personal note: “Education and Walls”

[Though I originally wrote this as an op-ed, the places I submitted it to properly recognized that this was more of a personal note than an op-ed, so I am posting it here instead… of course, if lightening strikes and this gets picked up anywhere else, I’ll provide links (though I doubt it).]

When I first started teaching, I thought I could be friends with my students.  I was young, 26, and naïve.  That year I taught some of my favorite students, people who I still keep in touch with and whose lives I observe through social media.  Since then, I have many more students who are my “Friends” on Facebook, but I have come to accept that we are not really friends.  In their minds, I will always be “Professor Rosser,” even if they do become comfortable calling me by my first name.  And I don’t blame them.  Though being a professor myself helps break down some of the barriers with my mentors, I likely will never consider them peers.  In the back of my mind they are professors for life, even if we end up working together or writing together.

This separation between professor and student is strongest in my large lecture class.  Ninety-five students this semester will dutifully laugh at my jokes—unless they are incapable of turning off Facebook during class—as we march through the intricacies of 1L Property Law.  On the first day, I ask them to try to find the joy in Property, but if I am honest with myself, the best I can hope for is that some of my joy spreads to them.  There isn’t actually all that much joy in the rule against perpetuities  or aesthetic zoning.  I like my students, I want the best for them, but I only really get to know the handful of them that I teach in my upper level classes.

Partly because our relationship is necessarily limited, there is a wall in the most professor-student relationships.  And this wall extends to politics.  I invite progressive students to observe and debate the racism in many of the opinions we read, but I also am quick to encourage conservative students to express their disgust at doctrines, such as adverse possession and eminent domain, that can serve to take property away from landowners.  I often see my role as facilitating disagreement and, if need be, playing devil’s advocate so that the discussion brings out both sides of the debate.  The book I teach from is the middle-of-the-road textbook and my only standard “political” stance every year is to dedicate one day to studying the poor.  But, in my defense, it seems absurd to study “property” without spending some time on those without property.

For me, the Trump Era forces the question of how much politics is it appropriate for a professor to insert into a standard syllabus?  I know other professors for whom everything has always been political.  When I was a student, I was taught Constitutional Law by a brilliant professor who worked on the Bush-side of the Bush v. Gore case.  His class was a constant series of political moves that culminated with an end-of-the-semester celebration of United States v. Lopez, a Supreme Court decision limiting the reach of the Commerce Clause and elevating states’ rights.  I respect such professors for their honesty, but until now, I did not struggle with my choice to remain largely neutral in my large lecture class.  After all, if there is anything I have learned from teaching a seemingly endless series of Property classes, it is that it is great when libertarians feel comfortable enough to speak their mind in class.  Every year, I have more than a fair share of instinctively progressive students, but the classroom dynamic is best when libertarians do not let their position get drowned out by the self-righteousness that seems to be a pre-condition for going to law school.  I get to know many of the progressive students well—the most progressive of them seem inevitably to sign up for my upper level Poverty Law and Federal Indian Law classes—but I often have the most fun with the conservative students.

I have been very reluctant to interject my (far-left-of-center) politics into the classroom not only because I am afraid doing so might silence debates in class but also because I feel that only my wife needs to suffer through my political ranting.  (Oh to have been born in a society that actually cared about poor people…)  But this year I think is going to be different because Trump and the Republicans in Congress are different.  Their record already shows that they do not care about making sweeping changes that are antithetical to our nation’s ideals.  This is a man, a party, and far too many supporters with no sense of decency, no understanding of history, and no shame in embodying the worst parts of human nature. These are dark days.

America is a truly great nation and in many ways has been a beacon for other nations across the globe [which I write despite teaching both Indian law and poverty law].  It seems to me that the professoriate not only should be allowed to be more political nowadays but ought to speak openly with students about the grave danger the country is in today.  In such a crisis moment, I hope my students will forgive me if from time to time I break down some of the walls between professors and students by being honest about the need for resistance.

Opinion: Standing up for ‘so-called’ law

Opinion: Martha Minow and Robert Post, Standing up for ‘so-called’ law, Boston Globe (Feb. 10, 2017).

New Report: “Law School Scholarship Policies: Engines Of Inequity”

New Report: LSSSE, Law School Scholarship Policies: Engines Of Inequity (2017).  News coverage here.



Health Justice – Teaching Fellow Position

Loyola University School of Law is seeking to hire a Teaching Fellow/Supervising Attorney for its Health Justice Project, health-justice-project-loyola-law-chicago, a medical-legal partnership housed in the Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy at the Law School. The position is a two- year fellowship, and is designed to provide the fellow with clinical teacher training, leadership development, experience collaborating on an inter-professional team, and career growth for public interest leaders.

The partners in the MLP include Loyola’s School of Law, School of Medicine, and Department of Public Health, Erie Family Health Center, and LAF Chicago.  Students enrolled in the clinic engage in director client representation and policy advocacy under the supervision of the faculty member and the fellow.

For more information on the position and to apply, please go to:

Personal Thanks to Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez

I just wanted to give a personal and public thank you to Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez for his leadership of the AALS Poverty Section this year; for his organization in the section’s main panel today and for finding an excuse to highlight The Poverty Canon yesterday.  Even though I am incapable of his level of constant sincerity and concerned approach to everything (my mind seems to brim over with snide comments or jokes), it is great to get to watch Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez in action, it is a reminder that I could potentially be a better person.  So thanks for your leadership and behavior modeling.  =)

News Article: “Bringing Together Medical and Law Students to Help Disadvantaged Residents in DC”

News Article: “Bringing Together Medical and Law Students to Help Disadvantaged Residents in DC,” Georgetown University Medical Center, Nov. 22, 2016.

News Article: “Law School Debt Rankings – Law Schools with the Highest Debt”

News Article: Andrew Ostler, “Law School Debt Rankings – Law Schools with the Highest Debt,” JD Journal, Nov. 22, 2016.