LawSpcTop/HumanRights & SocJus
Term: Fall 2023 - Law (08/21/2023 - 12/15/2023)
Grade Mode: Letter Grading
Times & Locations
|1:00pm - 2:30pm
Human Rights and Social Justice
This class examines the role of lawyers in movements for social justice and some of the key human rights issues that exist in the United States, including how lawyers and judges have both contributed to and tried to address these issues through existing legal doctrines.
When we think of human rights issues, we tend to think of abuses that exist beyond our borders. But human rights issues exist in the United States, and our proximity can often desensitize us to these issues. As Human Rights Watch wrote in 2021:
Important human rights failings of the United States were laid bare in 2020.
The grossly disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black, brown, and Native people, connected to longstanding disparities in health, education, and economic status, revealed the enduring effects of past overtly racist laws and policies and continuing impediments to equality. The police killing of George Floyd in May, and a series of other police killings of Black people, sparked massive and largely peaceful protests, which in many instances were met with brutality by local and federal law enforcement agents.
This Human Rights Watch report goes on to document human rights failings in the United States in the context of racial justice, poverty and inequality, injustices in the criminal legal system and juvenile justice system, drug policy, the rights of non-citizens, health and human rights, voting rights, the education, the environment, reproductive rights, elderly rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, and freedom of expression and assembly, among other areas.
This class will examine many of these human rights issues, including discussing whether these issues are actually problems that need addressing. In doing so, this class will discuss how legal doctrines created by lawyers and judges have both contributed to and tried to address some of these issues. We will also use case studies from New Hampshire to demonstrate how these issues have had an impact more locally.
In the context of these human rights issues, we will not only explore the legal origins of these issues, but we will also explore core questions about what it means to be a lawyer interested in public interest advocacy and pushing for social justice. The goals for this course will be—in addition to developing a command of the legal doctrines implicating various human rights issues—to become familiar with civil rights advocacy and the approaches public interest lawyers take to their work. To do so, we will analyze in the first part of the course historical and contemporary movement lawyering and explore different advocacy tools and their efficacy in solving social problems.