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Social Justice Monday: 2015/16

Social Justice Monday is an organized, weekly series hosted by the Access to Justice Institute in partnership with students, student organizations, and other departments across the law school.

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Social Justice Monday Topics

April 18, 2016 - Managing Your Student Loan Debt and Focusing on What Matters

Social Justice Monday - April 18, 2016

Students have important decisions to make about student loans. Flexible repayment options and forgiveness provisions are available, but the details matter and it can be confusing to figure out on your own.

Heather Jarvis, attorney and national student loan expert gave an engaging and practical presentation that clearly explained:

Student debt as part of your total financial picture
Options for managing student debt
Strategies for reducing your overall costs
Income-driven repayment plans
New Revised Pay As You Earn repayment plan
Loan forgiveness that is not tied to employment
Public Service Loan Forgiveness in Five Steps
Tax issues specific to student loan borrowers
Proposed changes to student loan debt relief programs

Heather Jarvis, widely known for her depth of knowledge and accessible teaching style, has provided student loan education and consultation for universities, associations and professional advisors since 2005. Heather graduated cum laude from Duke University School of Law in 1998 and is a dedicated advocate on behalf of high-debt student loan borrowers. Heather contributes to student debt relief policy for the House Education Committee and others in Congress and serves on the American Bar Association Task Force on Financing Legal Education.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related resources available from the Law Library:

March 28, 2016 - Who is a Terrorist?: The Legal, Legislative, and Social Impacts of a Powerful Label

Social Justice Monday–March 28, 2016

Submitted by Jeanna McLellan, Electronic Services Assistant 

Terrorism is a frightening concept, and it can seemingly strike closer-to-home each passing day. Terrorists seem like a monolithic and dangerous “other.” However, the reality is tremendously complex. The root causes of terrorism are elusive.  Identifying them is difficult and contentious. Despite this, the terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” are used with great frequency to powerful legal and social effect. This begs the question: can we define terrorism? How does current law actually define terrorism? Is the definition appropriate? What are the broader impacts of this definition on the public, the media, and the legislative process?  The answers to these questions are difficult and fraught with social and political consequence, especially for Muslims and Arab-Americans.

This Social Justice Monday Professor John McKay, Sharia Law Scholar Salah Dandan, and former FBI Special Agent Charlie Mandigo engaged in a discussion about the legal, legislative and social impacts of the “terrorist” label.  The panel was moderated by 1L Scholar for Justice Ben Halpern-Meekin.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related resources available from the Law Library:

March 21, 2016 - Making a 180 in Juvenile Justice

Social Justice Monday–March 21, 2016

Submitted by Jeanna McLellan, Electronic Services Assistant

Every year, thousands of juveniles in King County enter the criminal justice system. They are cut off from their families, their education is disrupted, and they are often exposed to further trauma and violence— which ultimately harms their development and has lifelong negative consequences.  Community-based alternatives to incarceration are much less expensive and more effective in reducing crime and recidivism.

Through a partnership between the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and other community organizations, the 180 Program gives first-time juvenile offenders the opportunity to avoid incarceration and make a 180 turn from the path they were headed. Through a combination of large-group presentations, engaging ice-breaker activities, and small-group personal discussions, workshop participants learn to make better choices.  The program uses an innovative and evidence-based approach where speakers from the youth’s own communities, many who have been through similar situations, inspire them to take a different path.  Seattle University School of Law has been a partner by providing free space for these monthly workshops.  To date, over 1500 youth have been diverted from incarceration by going through the 180 program.

This social Justice Monday King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office Chief of Staff, Leesa Manion ‘96, 180 Program Directors Terrell Dorsey and Dominique Davis, and 180 Program Graduate Cierra Conley, discussed the program and the importance of diverting juveniles out of the criminal justice system. 

Interested in learning more? Here are some related resources available in the Law Library:

February 29, 2016 - "Domestic Dependent Nations" in the Twenty-First Century

Social Justice Monday–February 29, 2016

Submitted by Jeanna McLellan, Electronic Services Assistant

From first contact, Indian tribes have been in danger of losing their separate political and cultural identity, thereby being assimilated into dominant American society. The only thing preventing this has been the tribes' unextinguished claim to sovereignty – the inherent authority of tribes to govern themselves. Federal Indian law and policy has been troubled from its beginning by recurring paradoxes, inconsistencies, and conflicting national and tribal objectives. Yet tribal cultures remain strong in the face of powerfully adverse political and jurisprudential forces, continuing to gain influence in political spheres.  The current diminished status of tribal sovereignty is taking its toll on the ability of tribes to survive as unique cultural and political communities and is diminishing their contribution to the vitality of our country as a whole.

There are 567 federally recognized Indian tribes in the U.S., most of which have their own sovereign lands, governments, and court systems, and who interact every day with the state and federal government. Yet most legal thought overlooks our sovereign Indian nations and legal heritage. In Indian law we are confronted with the limits of the law, and our study should press us towards figuring out how to take the next step toward problem solving of a different order.  But we cannot do that effectively until we know how Indian law works. One needs to understand the ailment to start to treat it effectively.

Professor Michael Miranda, Adjunct Professor and Faculty Fellow at the Center for Indian Law & Policy and Professor Eric Eberhard, Distinguished Indian Law Practitioner in Residence and Senior Fellow at the Center for Indian Law led the discussion.

Professor Miranda discussed Indian Law's relevance to social justice through four elements. First, what is studied in Indian Law is at the core of social justice--the interaction of cultures, and acceptance and accommodation. Second, the study of Indian Law allows one to develop the Jesuit values of social justice. Third, the study of Indian Law  provides a window into what real diversity is, and how to build bridges between communities. Fourth, it teaches one the limit of the law to provide social justice, and for true reconciliation we need more than the law.

Professor Eberhart discussed tribal sovereignty in the context of the ability of tribes to effectively govern their homelands, protect their land and cultures and provide for the social and economic well-being of their citizens and all those in an Indian community. As limitations are imposed on tribal sovereignty, as is believed will occur in the current Dollar General case and has occurred in other cases before the Supreme Court, Indian law helps us understand exclusion and the limits of the law.  This understanding then leads us to grasp the need to move beyond the law's contours to seek cultural and political reconciliation.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related books available in the Law Library:

February 22, 2016 - Never Far from Justice: A Look at the Criminal Justice System in Rural Communities (Part Three of the Criminal Justice Reform Series)

Social Justice Monday—February 22, 2016

More than 700,000 people in Washington live in rural communities. With only 23% completing college and an 8% unemployment rate, the criminal justice system and the need for reform is different for rural communities than it is for many metropolitan areas.  Many rural communities are more homogeneous than their urban counterparts and funding for law enforcement and the criminal justice system is more limited.

This third and final part of the criminal justice reform series will take a critical look at the challenges that rural communities face in dealing with race and economic disparity in the criminal justice system.  Today’s Social Justice Monday’s speakers, Melissa Lee from Columbia Legal Services’ Institutions Project who will discuss CLS’ work in some of Washington’s rural communities and its recent case against the Franklin County Correctional Center, and Francis Adewale, Spokane Public Defender, discussed the impact of crimes in urban and rural areas of Eastern Washington as well as racial equity disparity in pretrial release in Spokane County.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related books available in the Law Library:

February 8, 2016 - Envisioning a Different Criminal Justice System: Alternatives to Incarceration

Social Justice Monday—Monday, February 8, 2016
Submitted by Jeanna McLellan, Electronic Services Assistant

Part Two of the Criminal Justice Reform Series
Presented by The Human Rights Law Society and Black Law Student Association

While the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world's population, it houses around 22 percent of the world's prisoners. This puts our incarceration rate as one of the world’s highest, at 716 per 100,000 of our national population.  As mass incarceration plagues our country, so does racial disparity in our criminal justice system.  More than 60% of people in prison are racial and ethnic minorities.  For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day.

In 2012, the Task Force on Race and the Criminal Justice issued a report on race in Washington’s criminal justice system, stating that racial and ethnic disproportionality in our criminal justice system is indisputable. The task force focused on why disproportionalities exist, examining differential commission rates, facially neutral policies with disparate impacts, and bias as possible contributing causes.

Advocates and law makers across the country have been working toward ending mass incarceration and racial disparity in our criminal justice system – whether through policy changes, legislative fixes, implicit bias education within the legal system, litigation, and alternative approaches to the punitive justice model.

This Social Justice Monday, Shannon Perez-Darby, the Youth Services Program Director at The Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse, discussed the importance of accountable communities. Professor Paul Holland examined the benefits of Problem-Solving Courts and Participatory Defense as alternatives to our current criminal justice system. Afram Ayika advocated the advantages of Restorative Justice, and Professor Deborah Ahrens evaluated the benefits of Restorative Justice and possible issues arising from Problem-Solving Courts.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related resources available in the Law Library:

February 1, 2016 - Racial Disparities in Our Criminal Justice System: How Did We Get Here

Social Justice Monday—Monday, February 1, 2016
Submitted by Jeanna McLellan, Electronic Services Assistant

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. The increase in jails and prisons from 300,000 to 2.3 million in the past 40 years has led to unprecedented prison overcrowding and put tremendous strain on government budgets. Mass incarceration has devastated poor and minority communities. Disenfranchisement of offenders and the creation of barriers for employment, housing, driver licenses, and public benefits have created a growing underclass of largely poor people. And racial disparities permeate every part of the US criminal justice system. Human Rights Watch reported in their 2016 World Report that while Whites and African Americans engage in drug offenses at comparable rates, African Americans are arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated for drug offenses at much higher rates.

The Human Rights Society and the Black Law Students Association explore our criminal justice system and the need for reform in a three-week series on criminal justice reform.

This Social Justice Monday explored the history and impact of criminal law & policy in the United States and its bearing on racial bias and profiling and sentencing disparities in our contemporary legal system. We welcomed Professor Robert Boruchowitz from the Korematsu Center’s Defender Initiative, Twyla Carter ’07 from The Defender Association, and Jay Stansell formerly of the Federal Public Defender.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related books available in the Law Library:

January 25, 2016 - The Promised Land—How to Get the Benefits of Affirmative Action to Really Work in Law Schools

Social Justice Monday—January 25, 2016
Submitted by Jeanna McLellan, Electronic Services Assistant

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments on the case known as Fisher II. The Court revisited the issue of Affirmative Action as it applies to race-based admission policies in higher education. Originally, the Court examined whether the University of Texas had demonstrated that its race-based admission program was sufficiently narrowly tailored to obtain the educational benefits of diversity. In 2013, in the Fisher I case, the Supreme Court remanded the case stating that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals should evaluate whether the university had sufficiently demonstrated that its raced-based admissions policy was necessary and met the strict scrutiny standard in order to achieve diversity. The Court of Appeals determined that the University of Texas had adequately shown both that the admissions program was necessary and narrowly tailored to achieve racial diversity. In taking up the case for consideration again, the U.S. Supreme Court has created concern amongst many affirmative action supporters that racial considerations in admissions policies—and the educational benefits that come with them—will soon disappear.

However, what often seems to be overlooked is that allowing for race-based admissions in order to achieve the educational benefits associated with diversity is only part of the story. Once a diverse student body exists on campus, what guarantees are present to ensure that the promised educational benefits will come to fruition?

Seattle University’s own Dr. Dierdre Bowen presented results from a national study that she conducted analyzing the Law School Survey of Student Engagement data. She conducted a large-scale study of the effects of diversity in legal education. The analysis involved almost 95,000 responses to the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (“LSSSE”) received between 2010 and 2012 from students at 127 law schools.

The results are encouraging. When students perceive that their law school encourages diversity and fosters diverse interactions, students report having both a better understanding of people from other racial and ethnic backgrounds and better training in solving complex problems. These are fundamental skills every lawyer should possess. And as it happens, these skills are also the educational benefits that the Supreme Court viewed as Constitutionally compelling in the 2003 Grutter affirmative action case.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related books available from the Law Library:

January 11, 2016 - Mexico's Human Rights Crisis

Social Justice Monday--January 11, 2016
Submitted by Jeanna McLellan, Electronic Services Assistant

Last September, the world was shocked by the appalling disappearance of 43 student activists from a rural teacher’s college in Ayotzinapa.  Search parties have discovered the clandestine graves of many others murdered in Mexico, a country overwhelmed by violence and corruption.  In fact, Mexico has become one of the world’s most deadly countries for rights advocates and journalists. The threats do not only come from drug cartels. Political leaders and law enforcement officials — themselves strongly linked to cartels in many cases — routinely persecute social activists. Their brutal methods have left thousands of victims killed, tortured, or detained.

Ricardo Lagunes, distinguished human rights attorney on the front lines of Mexico’s crisis, has defended the rights of indigenous communities, political prisoners, and migrants for over a decade—often collaborating with our very own International Human Rights Clinic. Ricardo Lagunes provided his view of Mexico this Social Justice Monday. The event  was moderated by Alejandra Gonza, an Argentine human rights lawyer who currently directs the Business and Human Rights Clinic at the University of Washington School of Law and is also a member of the Seattle Human Rights Commission.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related books available from the Law Library:

November 23, 2015 - Debt and the Death of Democracy

Social Justice Monday— November 23, 2015
Submitted by Justin Abbasi, Reference Librarian

In the last Social Justice Monday of the fall semester, Professor Tayyab Mahmud shared his recent scholarship on the neoliberal political economy. In 1979, after 25 years of stability, there was a counter-revolution against Keynesian economics. We’ve adopted neoliberalism; by unshackling the banks, democracy is shackled. Professor Mahmud explained how democracy is slowly dying. In addition to voter participation falling across the globe, partisan politics represents conflicting views and is ultimately unsatisfactory. Legislation is being “fast-tracked” and becoming more immune to democratic control. We cannot be both citizens and consumers; and, today, society sees us all as consumers. As the hegemony of financial capital increases in power, welfare and organized labor decrease. Professor Mahmud suggested that soon everyone will be forced into being independent contractors perpetually seeking the next accreditation in order to be more marketable, but he also left us with the message that this should not depress us. It should invigorate us to breathe life back into democracy.

Interested in learning more? Here are some related books available in the Law Library:

November 2, 2015 - The Constitution, Presidential Elections, and the Electoral College with Joaquin Avila

Social Justice Monday—November 2, 2015
Submitted by Justin Abbasi, Reference Librarian

Professor Joaquin Avila, a nationally recognized voting rights expert and advocate, educated us this Social Justice Monday on the origin of voting rights in the Constitution. He empowered us to think of new arguments to advance civil rights by focusing on the dark side of our Constitutional history and how far we’ve come. Voting rights exists within the compromises made to form our government--between the industrial Northern States and slave-holding Southern States.

Each group wished to protect its own economic interests, and this is reflected in America’s constitutional structure. A republican form of government, which can be influenced by money, was chosen over a monarchy, because monarchs are difficult to control. Instead of by popular vote, an Electoral College selects the President. The Electoral College disproportionately protected the Southern states' interests in slavery. Finally, to ensure unwanted laws are encumbered, the Founders established a bicameral legislature, a President who can veto legislation, and laid the groundwork for a Supreme Court that can invalidate the law.

While a lot was accomplished for civil rights during the first Reconstruction, following the Civil War, it wasn’t until World War II and President Truman’s creation of the Commission on Civil Rights where the promises inherent in the Constitution come to light. The battle is not over yet, despite the weakening of federal voting rights legislation in the courts, states have an opportunity to pass legislation to protect voting rights. Notably, in California, Professor Avila crafted the first legislation of this kind--the California Voting Rights Act.

Check out these resources from the Law Library:

October 26, 2015 - From Elle Woods to Elena Kagan: Challenges to Stereotypes of Women in the Legal Profession

Social Justice Monday—October 26, 2015
Submitted by Justin Abbasi, Reference Librarian

Over the past few decades, women have entered the legal field in much higher numbers. However, the salary disparity between men and women remains and is just one indicator that the legal profession still has strides to make toward equality. In 2012, a blue-ribbon Task Force on Gender Equity was created by the American Bar Association. The task force found that the attrition of women from law firms remains disproportionately high, and a contributing factor is the gender pay gap. However, the ABA study reveals a far more nuanced explanation.  The gender gap is not only in pay but also in leadership positions.

Attorneys Kara MorseMaren Norton, and Janet Chung (a former SU legal writing professor) shared their experience and offered advice this Social Justice Monday. They discussed the many different factors that create implicit gender bias in the legal field including maternity leave and family and career juggling. 

If you’re interested in learning more, here are some resources in the law library: