Category Archives: Race

News Article: “‘This can’t happen by accident.’”

News Article: Emily Badger, “‘This can’t happen by accident.’“, Washington Post, May 2, 2016.


Article: “Is Tax Increment Financing Racist? The Racially Disparate Impact in Chicago’s TIF Spending”

Article: Jared F. Knight, “Is Tax Increment Financing Racist? The Racially Disparate Impact in Chicago’s TIF Spending,” 101 Iowa L. Rev. 1681 (2016).

Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) is a financing tool used by cities large and small across the country. Chicago, whose history includes several instances of de jure and de facto racial discrimination, is an especially prolific TIF user. This Note examines TIF distribution in each of Chicago’s 50 wards. Both a regression analysis and full population data show that White wards receive substantially greater TIF allocations than Black and Hispanic wards. To solve this disparity, this Note proposes amending the Illinois TIF statute to narrow the circumstances in which TIF is available. This Note further proposes changing Chicago’s TIF allocation process to restrict TIF dollars to wards experiencing extreme poverty and wards with little racial disparity, concluding that the latter is the best and fastest short-term option to correct the imbalance.


Article: “The Price of Equality: Fair Housing, Land Use, and Disparate Impact”

Article: Jonathan Zasloff, “The Price of Equality: Fair Housing, Land Use, and Disparate Impact,” 49 Columbia Rights Review (forthcoming, 2017).

What happens when local government policies run head-on into federal civil rights laws? Nowhere does this question assume greater importance than with land use and fair housing, yet in the nearly half-century since the passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), courts and commentators have skirted the question. With the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Inclusive Communities Project v. Texas, the most significant fair housing decision in the nation’s history, they can no longer do so. This Article represents the first sustained effort to show how the FHA affects land use, the most important power that cities have under American localism. The Supreme Court held for the first time that the FHA allows disparate impact liability, and outlined when such disparate impact cases can be brought. But it left many crucial questions unanswered, and this Article attempts to fill the gap. It concludes that when cities restrict affordable and multifamily housing, which often has a disparate impact on people of color, zoning ordinances must withstand intermediate scrutiny in order to be sustained. Courts must balance local policies with demands for inclusion: sometimes those policies will triumph, but in many instances they will not, for they rest on weak empirical or legal foundations, or they can be addressed in less restrictive ways. The Article sets forth a series of the most common scenarios and justifications for exclusionary zoning, and seeks to show that such justifications have far less purchase than is commonly supposed. The FHA comes nowhere close to abolishing zoning, but it does insist that local zoning must no longer exclude racial minorities, and the Court’s decision makes clear how fair housing advocates can and should use the law to fight such exclusion. If localities no longer have the discretion to exclude people of color, then that is the price of equality.


Article: “Racial and Gender Justice in the Child Welfare and Child Support Systems”

Article: Margaret F. Brinig, “Racial and Gender Justice in the Child Welfare and Child Support Systems,” 35 Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice (forthcoming).

While divorcing couples in the United States have been studied for many years, separating unmarried couples and their children have proven more difficult to analyze. Recently there have been successful longitudinal ethnographic and survey-based studies. This piece uses documents from a single Indiana county’s unified family court (called the Probate Court) to trace the effects of race and gender on unmarried families, beginning with a sample of 386 children for whom paternity petitions were brought in four months of 2008. It confirms prior theoretical work on racial differences in noncustodial parenting and poses new questions about how incarceration and gender affect low income families.


News Coverage: “Court Costs Entrap Nonwhite, Poor Juvenile Offenders”

News Coverage: Erik Eckholm, Court Costs Entrap Nonwhite, Poor Juvenile Offenders, New York Times, Aug. 31, 2016.

News Coverage: “Affluent and Black, and Still Trapped by Segregation”

News Coverage: John Eligon & Robert Gebeloff, Affluent and Black, and Still Trapped by Segregation, N.Y. Times, Aug. 20, 2016.


Blog Posts on Ban the Box by Noah Zatz

Three Blog Posts on Ban the Box by Noah Zatz:

BoxBan the Box and Perverse Consequences, Part I; Ban the Box and Perverse Consequences, Part II; and Ban the Box and Perverse Consequences, Part III.

See also this Atlantic Magazine article.


New Book: “The Poverty Law Canon: Exploring the Major Cases”

Poverty Canon CoverI am excited to announce that The Poverty Law Canon: Exploring the Major Cases (Marie Failinger & Ezra Rosser eds., Univ. of Michigan Press, 2016) is now published and available through both the Michigan Press website and Amazon, etc (the library edition is $95 and the paperback is $39.95).

I have a bit more to say about this book, below, but first I want to highlight the contents of the book.  The book came out of a 2013 conference and features a great group of contributors as can be seen from the chapter list:


Introduction – Ezra Rosser

Part I: Victories

When Paupers Became People: Edwards v. California (1941) – Clare Pastore

Remaking the “Law of the Poor”: Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co. (1965)  – Anne Fleming

Sylvester Smith, Unlikely Heroine: King v. Smith (1968) – Henry Freedman

Legal Services Attorneys and Migrant Advocates Join Forces: Shapiro v. Thompson (1969)  – Elisa Alvarez Minoff

Dignity and Passion: Goldberg v. Kelly (1970) – Melanie B. Abbott

Litigating in the Zeitgeist: Rosado v. Wyman (1970) – Wendy A. Bach

Part II: Losses

A Sweeping Refusal of Equal Protection: Dandridge v. Williams (1970) – Julie A. Nice

Privacy as a Luxury Not for the Poor: Wyman v. James (1971) – Michele Estrin Gilman

A Tragedy of Two Americas: Jefferson v. Hackney (1972) – Marie A. Failinger

Denying the Poor Access to Court: United States v. Kras (1973) – Henry Rose

“The Poor People Have Lost Again”: San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973) – Camille Walsh

Part III: The Modern Era

Reflecting and Foreshadowing: Mathews v. Eldridge (1976) – John J. Capowski

Chronicle of a Debt Foretold: Zablocki v. Red Hail (1978) – Tonya L. Brito, R. Kirk Anderson, and Monica Wedgewood

The Movement for a Right to Counsel in Civil Cases: Turner v. Rogers (2011) – Kelly Terry

Public Housing as Housing of Last Resort: Department of Housing and Urban Development v. Rucker (2002) – Nestor M. Davidson


As with any effort to put together a list of important cases, there are cases that arguably should have been included and/or excluded; the chapters represent a combination of the importance of the cases and the interests of the contributors.  But I hope this book will be of interest to those interested in poverty or poverty law in the United States.

“The contributors include some of the best academics who write and teach about poverty. The back stories of these cases are multidimensionally interesting—the clients, the legal strategies, the lawyers themselves, the historical and political context, the effect on the law, the backstage of the Supreme Court and the role of the law clerks.” – Peter Edelman

As one of the editors, I want to thank Michigan Press for taking a chance on this book, Marie Failinger for being such a great co-editor, and all the contributors for their patience as this book made its slow way from idea to something that can be picked up.

I want to end on a personal note.  I see The Poverty Law Canon as being closely related to the Juliet Brodie, Clare Pastore, Ezra Rosser & Jeff Selbin, Poverty Law, Policy, and Practice (2014) in that both are efforts to think through and share the connection between poverty and law in a manner that hopefully will appeal to scholars and students.  The books are linked in my mind, and not only because of the work involved.  I dedicated my role on the textbook to my late father-in-law, Mario Castro, and my part of the dedication page of The Poverty Law Canon reads:

To my students and to my colleagues and mentors at American University Washington College of Law, especially Susan Bennett, Claudio Grossman, and Ira Robbins. It is a privilege to get to teach and write in your company.

Thanks for putting up with this long aside, now buy your copy and tell your librarian to do the same!  =)

New Article: “Discrimination in Evictions: Empirical Evidence and Legal Challenges”

New Article: Deena Greenberg, Carl Gershenson & Matthew Desmond, Discrimination in Evictions: Empirical Evidence and Legal Challenges, 116 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 115 (2016).  Abstract below:

Tens of thousands of housing discrimination complaints are filed each year. Although there has been extensive study of discrimination in the rental market, discrimination in evictions has been largely overlooked. This is because determining whether discrimination exists in evictions presents several challenges. Not only do landlords typically have a non-discriminatory reason for evictions (e.g., nonpayment), but they also wield tremendous discretion over eviction decisions—discretion that can be informed by conscious or unconscious bias against a protected group. Detecting discrimination in evictions, moreover, poses a number of challenges that conventional methods of assessing housing discrimination are ill-suited to address. This Article is among the first to empirically investigate racial and ethnic discrimination in eviction decisions. It does so by drawing on the Milwaukee Area Renters Study, a novel observational study of 1,086 rental households. Statistical analyses reveal that among tenants at risk of eviction, Hispanic tenants in predominantly white neighborhoods were roughly twice as likely to be evicted as those in predominantly non-white neighborhoods. Hispanic tenants were also more likely to get evicted when they had a non-Hispanic landlord. This Article discusses possible explanations for these findings and evaluates legal and policy solutions for addressing discrimination in the eviction process.

News Coverage: “ How Banks Stole Homes From the Most Vulnerable New Yorkers”

News Coverage: Michelle Chen, How Banks Stole Homes From the Most Vulnerable New Yorkers, The Nation, July 15, 2016.