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Yearly Roundup: Editors’ Picks, Part 1


Yesterday we provided a list of all posts we published this year. Today and tomorrow we do a bit of curation, by telling your our personal favorites.

Anna Wherry

What a difficult choice! I’ve learned so much from each piece this year. I’ve limited myself to one piece and one full symposium. Aya Gruber’s post on “Carceral Feminism at a Crossroads,” brought attention to feminism’s collusion with policing and prisons at a critical moment during the protests this summer. Prison abolition skeptics often invoked violence against women as a specter casting doubt on the movement. Gruber points to the decades-long history of using domestic violence and sexual assault as justifications for carceral policies and urges us not to repeat this past. “Repeatedly, feminists stood at the crossroads of antiviolence policy and, despite warnings from insiders and other options, chose criminal law,” writes Gruber. The piece reminded me of a chapter from Marie Gottschalk’s book The Prison and the Gallows, where she compares British and American responses to rape and battered women. Instead of penal policy, British feminists pushed for policies that provided women with housing and other material support. Hopefully, American feminists (and in particular white American feminists) will recognize the crossroads this time and will learn from anti-carceral feminists of color in the U.S. and abroad, who have long called for anti-penal and transformative justice approaches (e.g. Resurj and Incite!).

The symposium on socialist constitutionalism was a fascinating conversation. Coming of age in the post-9/11 period and attending college less than a decade afterward, I learned about the Weimar Constitution as a principal example of, as Sam Moyn writes, “a cautionary lesson about what happens when emergency powers become devices for scuttling liberal democracy.” The symposium as a whole is a fantastic exchange on the legacy of the Weimar Constitution and the promises and limits of democratic-socialist constitutions. It’s one I highly recommend for those interested in histories of constitutionalism more generally as well.

Tariq El-Gabalawy

  • Not an “Achievement Gap” A Racial Capitalist Chasm by Nataliya Braginsky: I think this piece did a great job of highlighting how important it is to reframe our conversations around education reform by acknowledging systemic root causes of disparate racial outcomes in education. Nataliya also tells deeply personal stories from her classroom that illustrate how the pandemic has exasperated the racial capitalist pressures that drives these educational inequities.
  • How the Philly #HOUSINGNOW Encampment Movement Prompts us to Reimagine a Right to Contractby Madison Gray: This piece is great for two reasons. It tells the story of how a coalition of unhoused people and organizers took on the city of Philadelphia to stem the tide of gentrification and to demand permanent housing. Then Madison argues the success of these encampments to promote housing as a human right counters the traditional “Lochner-esque freedom of contract” by leveraging collective action to transform the unilateral process of contracting for housing into a bilateral one.
  • The entire Black Lives Matter Symposium: This symposium was like my best hits of the LPE’s coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement. Every article presents radical visions for transforming the Criminal Legal System and highlights issues within the system. If you only have time to read one piece in this series, I recommend “The Many Forms of Police Violence” by Monica Bell. This piece does a great job of shining a light on the structural and symbolic violence endemic to routine police work, as well as the consequences of this less visible violence. It partially teases here great NYU Law Review Article Anti-Segregation Policing, which is also a great read.
  • The entire Bail Reform Symposium: This symposium was great for me to revisit as my friends and I discussed whether or not to vote for the proposed elimination of cash bail in favor of a risk assessment tool that appeared on CA’s ballot this year. This entire series is great, but for anyone who felt similarly conflicted about bail reform propositions, I suggest reading “Moving from Ending Money Bail to Demanding Pretrial Freedom”, by Brett Davidson, Elisabeth Epps, Sharyln Grace, and Atara Rich-Shea – who are active organizers with the National Bail Fund Network. The piece argues that many efforts to reform money bail are misguided and that abolition is the best solution to addressing the ills of pre-trial incarceration.

Caroline Parker

“Favorites” are hard, so I am skirting the question…

The post to which I have returned most frequently is Angela Harris’s contribution to the Methods symposium, titled Tracking Extraction. In it, Harris explains that one way to “do” LPE is to look for the ways that law enables extraction by making valuable things “cheap.” I’ve spent a lot of time this year contemplating new LPE approaches to climate and environmental law. The lens of extraction brings so much of this territory into focus.

For me, the most resonant 2020 post was Brian Highsmith’s piece on the interplay between abolition and local budgeting, read in combination with Monica Bell’s piece on policing.  Highsmith directs the light of Bell’s work directly at public finance. I am currently working on revenue policy with city officials in my hometown. Highsmith’s piece reminds me that the problems I see are not really problems; like policing, the system is working exactly as designed. I appreciate his warning against the assumption that reallocation of line items alone will uproot structures of racial violence.

My favorite theoretical post was Kate Jackson’s piece on democracy—a word that law school has made into mush for me. Jackson doesn’t supply a ready definition, but she does map out the tensions and equivocations that have left us all confused.

And finally, my favorite sentence from the blog this year, appeared in Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor’s introduction to the Race for Profit series, in which she articulates the inherent limitations of market-based solutions to housing inequality:The market is not a safe space, free of racial animosity, gendered discriminations or other exacting viewpoints. The market is us. It reflects our greatest desires and those things, or people, we quietly hate