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Weekly Roundup: September 4, 2020


The blog is back! We’ll do our best to keep you as grounded as we possibly can for what is sure to be an increasingly strange and alienating fall.

This week our new Guest Editors, Angela Harris and Noah Zatz, introduced themselves and their goals. And Lynn Lu analyzed the role of the racialized ideology of workfare in deepening the immiseration of the pandemic.

We also have a shake up of the editorial team for the new semester! Isabel Echarte and Ure Obioma are stepping back, though they will always be in our hearts.

Lydia Nicholson, incoming 3L at UCLA Law and organizer with the LA Tenant’s union, will join us this semester with a focus on the law of housing, especially as it pertains to the ongoing eviction crisis.

And here are some recommendations from around the internet, starting with Lydia’s timely updates on the dramatic developments of this week in eviction prevention:

Lydia Nicholson:

The CDC put out national eviction protections, that are both means tested (which will likely “exclude some tenants, such as undocumented immigrants and participants in the informal economy, like domestic workers and food vendors, who may not have standard documentation of their wages”) and require a declaration that the tenant cannot pay due to hardship and that, if evicted, they would be homeless or forced to live in close quarters with others. These protections also do not cancel rent.

How exactly this protection will be applied is yet to be seen, but a huge win for tenants in states without eviction protections already in place. Tara Raghuveer of the KC Tenants Union reminds us to see this as a tenant organizing victory, and not let the current administration take the credit. Lastly, this order codified what we already knew, that housing essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives. 

California’s legislature (with help from the Governor) also passed an absolutely horrendous and confusing new law on eviction protections. However, Legal Services of Northern California already came through with a simple 2-minute video in Spanish and English, showing again that community knowledge can overcome purposefully unintelligible laws.

On that note, Dissent Magazine wrote a beautiful article about the power and possibilities of tenant unions instead of “housing movements.” According to the article, housing movements focus on “abstract” principles like community, whereas tenant movements are “part of a long tradition of situating politics in concrete everyday survival.”
On the more strictly legal academia side of things, Matt Warren and Nisha Vyas wrote for UCLA Law Review about how the current eviction protections in California, and across the country, fail because they simply delay repayment of debt instead of erasing it: “The reality is that any scheme that simply gives tenants a set period of time to ‘catch up’ on rental payments amounts to an eviction delay, not eviction prevention.” More interesting and important is their solution:  de-profitize housing now: “While COVID-19 is not the root cause of housing insecurity, the speed with which the pandemic has pulled hundreds of thousands of Californians to the precipice of housing loss means that it is well past time we treat housing as a social good rather than as a wealth generator for the privileged few.”

Tariq El-Gabalawy:

Recently released body cam footage from the killing of Daniel Prude has sparked outrage. The circumstances surrounding Daniel’s death is a somber reminder of how mental health is treated as a legal issue not a public health issue. The consequences of this reality are devastating, as county jails become our country’s largest mental health care providers and people with disabilities – particularly black people with disabilities – are far more likely to die at the hands of the police.

In the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting and the protests that have followed, a great deal has been made about law enforcement connections with white-supremacist organizations. The Brennan Center released a report detailing the extent to which these connections have been known and inadequately handled by Federal enforcement agencies. Internal documents dating back to 2017 reveal the FBI has known about links between white-supremacist and law enforcement agencies across the country, yet the DOJ has failed to implement a national plan to identify affiliated officers and protect the civil rights of impacted communities.

Obviously white-supremacy and policing are intertwined, but the lack of accountability and initiative to root out these evils continues to impact communities. This week a whistleblower in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department revealed during a deposition that the sheriff deputy responsible for fatally shooting Andres Guardado – whose death sparked protest across Los Angeles – was a prospective member of a sheriff’s gang called the Executioners. This news comes just one day before LA Sheriffs killed Dijon Kizzee, who was fleeing sheriff deputies. 

Finally, prosecutors in Louisville offered a man a plea deal requiring him to posthumously list Breonna Taylor as a co-defendant. A spokesman for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office admitted listing Taylor as a co-defendant was a mistake, but then conceded that it would have been more appropriate to list her as a co-conspirator. This obviously undermines faith in the investigation of Taylor’s death, and is just another point of tension as protesters plan for a Derby Day protest.

Caroline Parker:

Lurking beneath widespread calls “build back green” are questions about capital mobilization and the practical limits of public financing that I find difficult to answer. I was so satisfied to read Saule Omarova’s (Cornell Law School) new proposal for a new federal institution that would fill the financing gap. The “National Investment Authority” (NIA) draws inspiration from the New Deal Reconstruction Finance Corporation, would coordinate public and private investment in green infrastructure. According to Omarova, the NIA is a pragmatic mechanism that would “sustain the fundamental transformation we seek.”

I have yet to dig into Zephyr Teachout’s new book on private law and monopoly, but I am excited to see analysis of industrial animal agriculture alongside Amazon and Facebook. Ever since I read Christopher Leonard’s Meat Racket, I’ve thought the word “chickenization” deserves more play on the left.

Lastly, I really enjoyed this new paper from sociologist Kelley Fong on surveillance and coercion in the child welfare system. Though observations of individual family investigations, Fong documents how CPS functions as an all-purpose institution of poverty governance with no meaningful legal or jurisdictional limits.