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Weekly Roundup: June 21


At the Blog

On Monday, Tal Rothstein explained how the current structure of law reviews — which are often run entirely on uncompensated student labor — makes American legal scholarship vulnerable to repression, and reduces the diversity of perspectives among those who decide what topics and arguments in legal scholarship merit publication. Fortunately, there’s a solution: student organizing. Students in law schools around the country have started collectively challenging these problems and seeking compensation for their labor. Beyond the immediate merits of this demand, Rothstein argues, the level of politicization and solidarity that will be required by these organizing efforts is much greater than currently exists—and that is the real benefit of the demand. Acting collectively will shift students’ social identity and political orientation, deepening the moment of solidarity that has erupted in the aftermath of the student uprisings this spring. And this more organized student body would be better positioned to enact an affirmative vision of a more liberatory law school for the future.

On Thursday, Scott Cummings argued that while scholars have recently highlighted the role of law in democratic backsliding, they have largely ignored the actors who wield this tool: lawyers. Yet as the guardians of the legal legitimacy upon which autocratic legalism depends, the profession is a critical arena of democratic struggle that merits special attention. Analyzing the events that unfolded during the Stop the Steal Campaign in 2020, Cummings highlights the conditions in which professional networks are mobilized by illiberal movements and the legal strategies deployed by lawyers against rule-of-law constraints in moments of democratic crisis. He focuses, in particular, on the structural forces that undermine the professional independence of public lawyers, who serve the critical role of screening legitimate legal claims. By subverting or circumventing this norm, Trump and his allies were able to mobilize the law’s symbolic power to shape public opinion by disseminating the false narrative that the legal system was not working, stymied by corrupt voting officials and judges. As Cummings writes, “The campaign, in short, made the case that it was on the side of legality. To make this case credible, it was essential to have lawyers as active conspirators willing to produce facially legitimate legal work product—briefs, opinions, and forms—that asserted illegitimate challenges to legal rules securing presidential elections and ensuring that losing candidates accept the results.”

In LPE Land

This coming Tuesday, June 25th at 8pm ET, we’ll be holding the final meeting of What To Do About the Courts. In the session, led by Astra Taylor and Sabeel Rahman, we’ll talk about how to mobilize people around court disempowerment. Hope to see you there!

This coming Wednesday, June 26th, join us for a discussion with Ali Kadri, Max Ajl, & Helyeh Doutaghi on “The Accumulation of Waste: A Political Economy of Genocide and Imperialism.”

Joanna Kusiak’s Radically Legal, which tells the story a grassroots movement that convinced a million Berliners to vote to expropriate 240,000 rental apartments from mega landlords, is out now and available for free download. She’ll also be discussing the book this Wednesday (June 26) with Katharina Pistor at 10a ET. The event is online and open to all.

In Democracy, Victor Ray reviews Andrew Kahrl’s The Black Tax: 150 Years of Theft, Exploitation, and Dispossession in America.

In the Boston Review, there is a new forum on the role of the state in dethroning fossil capital, featuring Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, Tara Raghuveer, Joe Guinan, Martin O’Neill, Thea Riofrancos and more.