Category Archives: Politics

New Book: “White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America”

WWC BookNew Book: Joan C. Williams, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America (2017).

New Op-Ed: “The GOP hates red tape — except when it comes to poor people”

New Op-Ed: Noah Zatz, The GOP hates red tape — except when it comes to poor people, Wash. Post, May 30, 2017.

News and Politics: “Jared Kushner’s Other Real Estate Empire”

News and Politics: Alec MacGilles, Jared Kushner’s Other Real Estate Empire, N.Y. Times, May 23, 2017.

Lots of News about Trump’s Budget Proposal and the Poor this Week

This week there was lots of coverage of Trump’s proposed budget (see this overview from the NY Times) and its effect on poor people.  Below are just some of the articles and op-eds on the topic:

Perhaps the headline from the NPR story says it best:

Lastly, perhaps to explain what Republicans think about all this, this week Ben Carson called poverty largely a state of mind.

Not Poverty Law, but…!?!


The only real question is whether Republicans (elected officials and those who elected them) care more about this country than they do about pushing through regressive, self-interested, policies.  If this does not inspire Republicans to finally investigate and focus on Trump’s issues, it will wipe away the veneer that the Republican Party is based on certain ideas about how to make the country better (even if I disagree with many of those ideas) and reveal fully that the party is interested solely in power and nothing more.

Article: Now is the Time: Challenging Resegregation and Displacement in the Age of Hypergentrification

Article: Bethany Y. Li, Now is the Time: Challenging Resegregation and Displacement in the Age of Hypergentrification, 85 Fordham L. Rev. 1189 (2016).

Gentrification is reaching a tipping point of resegregating urban space in global cities like New York and San Francisco, often spurred by seemingly neutral government policies. The displacement resulting from gentrification forces low-income people from their homes into areas of concentrated poverty. Low-income communities consequently lose space, place, social capital, and cultural wealth that residents and small businesses have spent decades building up. This Article argues that communities at this tipping point must integrate litigation strategies directly aimed at stemming the adverse impacts of gentrification. Community organizing is integral to antidisplacement efforts, but litigation—and its injunctive powers—should play a larger role in protecting residents in hypergentrified neighborhoods. Using a rezoning that spurred gentrification in New York City’s Chinatown and Lower East Side as a case study, this Article considers how the Fair Housing Act, state constitutions, and a new vision of property law could counter the negative and often racially discriminatory effects of gentrification on low-income communities.

Article: The Raisins of Wrath: The Constitutionality of Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts Following Horne v. USDA

Article: Max Raskin, The Raisins of Wrath: The Constitutionality of Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts Following Horne v. USDA, 10 NYU J. L. & Liberty 857 (2016).

Interest on lawyers’ trust accounts (IOLTA) are programs that require lawyers to remit their some of their clients’ interest to the state. This money is used to fund legal aid programs. The Supreme Court, in a five-to-four 2003 decision in Brown v. Legal Foundation of Washington, upheld such a program against a Fifth Amendment takings challenge. This note argues that in light of subsequent Supreme Court jurisprudence, the Court’s reasoning in Brown is no longer tenable. The culmination of the post-Brown jurisprudence is Horne v. United States Department of Agriculture. Although the accounts are creations of the state, the benefits that flow from them cannot be unconstitutionally conditioned. Because no linkage can be drawn between providing free legal aid and the provision of IOLTA accounts, the interest remission requirement is unconstitutional.

Article: Housing Defense as the New Gideon

Article: Kathryn A. Sabbeth, Housing Defense as the New Gideon, 43 Harv. J. L. & Gender (forthcoming).

New York City is poised to become the first jurisdiction in the United States to guarantee a right to counsel for poor people at risk of losing their homes. Although millions of Americans are evicted every year, until recently, scholars and policymakers largely ignored the eviction phenomenon. New research demonstrates the frequency of eviction and the breadth of its economic and social impacts on individuals, their families, and society at large. Relying on studies showing that housing defense lawyers decrease eviction rates and promote positive social outcomes, NYC legislators concluded that a right to housing defense counsel would be both morally right and cost-effective. They introduced Intro 214-A to establish such a right and, in February 2017, the NYC mayor announced that his administration will provide the funds the bill needs to move forward. This Article is the first to analyze this ground-breaking legislation.

The right to appointment of criminal defense counsel recognized in Gideon v. Wainwright grew out of the Supreme Court’s response to the Civil Rights Movement. Using NYC’s housing defense bill as a case study, this Article identifies three ways in which the civil right to counsel has the potential to build on the Gideon model and expand it for today. First, in targeting the secondary effects of the eviction phenomenon, the NYC legislature moves beyond procedure to promote substantive outcomes. Second, its focus on housing defense recognizes a set of concerns that disproportionately impact Black women, thus building on the racial equality aims underlying Gideon and adding a move toward gender equality. Third, whereas the criminal defense model defends individuals against state power, the new bill applies to tenants of public and private landlords, thus checking abuses of private power.

The Article also addresses the dynamics of defensive lawyering, a feature of both the old and the new models of appointment of counsel. Defensive lawyering suffers from systemic limitations and fails to challenge social problems that could be addressed through affirmative suits—such as discrimination, harassment, and unsafe conditions. The availability of counterclaims in civil litigation, however, makes the civil defensive position more flexible than its criminal cousin, and may overcome some of these limits. The Article concludes that the new right to counsel holds significant promise.

Article: Should the Law Do Anything About Economic Inequality?

Article: Matthew Dimick, Should the Law Do Anything About Economic Inequality?, SUNY Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-011 (2016).

What should be done about rising income and wealth inequality? Should the design and adoption of legal rules take into account their effects on the distribution of income and wealth? Or should the tax-and-transfer system be the exclusive means to address concerns about inequality? A widely-held view argues for the latter: only the tax system, and not the legal system, should be used to redistribute income. While this argument comes in a variety of normative arguments and has support across the political spectrum, there is also a well-known law-and-economics version. This argument, known as the “double-distortion” argument, is simply stated. Legal rules that redistribute income only add to the economic distortions that are already present in the tax system. It would therefore be better for everyone, and especially the poor, to instead adopt an efficient, nonredistributive legal rule, and increase redistribution through the tax system.

This Article challenges the double-distortion argument from a law-and-economics perspective. There are two main arguments, in addition to several other subsidiary points. First, in the abstract, there is no reason to believe that legal rules that have redistributive effects will always reduce efficiency; indeed, they can sometimes increase efficiency. Examples from the regulation of product markets, labor markets, and financial markets underscore this claim. In these cases, legal redistribution is more efficient than redistribution through the tax system. Second, legal rules are likely to be more attractive than taxation precisely in cases where inequality itself or normative concerns about inequality is high. Under the optimal tax policy, higher inequality or greater concern about inequality will justify larger tax distortions. Therefore, a particular legal rule is more likely to be more efficient than the optimal tax policy under these circumstances. The ultimate conclusion is that a mix of legal rules and taxation, rather than taxation exclusively, will be the best way to address economic inequality.

News Article: Sonia Sotomayor: Not Everyone Can Just Pull Themselves ‘Up By The Bootstraps’

News Article: Carolina Moreno, Sonia Sotomayor: Not Everyone Can Just Pull Themselves ‘Up By The Bootstraps’, Huffington Post (Apr. 4, 2017).