Why are poor people poor? There’s a question lawyers, law students – indeed, many in the U.S. and around the world — could chew on for many hours. The answers, one would assume, are highly complex, and vary substantially by country and over time. In fact, however, American law has shown a remarkable tendency to oscillate between two highly simplistic explanations of poverty, what we might call the “luck hypothesis” and the “work ethic” hypothesis. Under the luck hypothesis, anyone could wind up poor. Those of us who aren’t poor were/are lucky. We had gifts like competent, loving parents, good health, decent schools. Those who are poor, under this hypothesis, have been unlucky. Under the “work ethic” hypothesis, by contrast, the poor are, at least disproportionately if not entirely, individuals who lack self-discipline and good habits. Yes, people are dealt different hands in life, but those who wind up poor didn’t try very hard. They don’t plan, they don’t work hard, they don’t capitalize on what is available to them. Given these competing – and seemingly mutually exclusive – hypotheses about poverty, what makes for sensible social policy?
Monday March 10, 2014 marked the launch of the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58). Representatives from Member States, UN agencies, and civil society have come together in New York City to address the issue of equality for women and girls. The theme for this year’s session is “Challenges and Achievements in the Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls.” These goals were adopted 13 years ago to promote women’s fullest enjoyment of their rights. Particular target areas include eradicating the disproportionate poverty of women and girls, increasing women’s participation in politics, and ending gender-based violence. CSW58 provides an opportunity for stakeholders to review what progress has been made in these areas, and what improvements are still necessary.
by David M. Phillips, Professor of Law
“What will I learn in the first year of law school?,” is a frequently asked question directed at a law professor. There are many answers to this question. Without pretending to be exhaustive, let me tender a partial answer, one focusing upon a changing conception of what we mean by law and one related to a skill that the first year of law school enhances.
by Luke Bierman, Associate Dean for Experiential Education and Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Law
The Northeastern University School of Law Class of 2014 will graduate at the end of May, leaving the members of this class with just one more quarter to spend as students at the law school. Some of these students are completing their last classes as they prepare to head off to co-op. The rest of these students are starting to appear in the Dockser Commons as they return from co-op for their last classes before graduation.
This week, the Law School hosted a series of events to recognize Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The events were co-sponsored by the Law School’s own Program on Human Rights in the Global Economy and Domestic Violence Institute, along with several partners within Northeastern University: the College of Social Sciences and Humanities’ Human Services Program; the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; Bouvé College of Health Sciences’ Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice; University Health and Counseling Services’ ViSION program; and student groups Not For Sale and UNICEF. The fact that these diverse partners share an interest in raising awareness around this issue speaks to the important and cross-cutting nature of human trafficking.
The famous phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” is associated not only with Spiderman, but also with American prosecutors, who possess the discretion to charge people with crimes and are therefore arguably the most powerful players in the criminal justice system. One significant check on that power is the Brady doctrine, which stems from a 1963 Supreme Court case holding that, prior to trial, prosecutors must disclose all information to the defense that is “favorable” to the defendant and “material” to guilt or punishment.
Edward Snowden caused an international debate about whistleblowers when he turned secret national security information over to the media. The conversation that has ensued about our privacy has been deeply important – both to our sense of our own democratic principles and to our understanding of the needs for secrecy in national intelligence.
But while Snowden may not be the typical whistleblower, he nevertheless represents a class of people who decide that they must step forward and raise concerns about activities they believe to be illegal or unsafe. Sometimes, these concerns involve suspected evasion of laws. Often they raise issues that affect the well-being of others.
by Professor Gabriel Arkles
It may sound cliché, but one of the things that I love about teaching is how much I learn from and with my students. It especially delights me when the work the students do outside the classroom, the work I do outside the classroom, and the work we do together inside the classroom build on and strengthen one another. Teaching and doing legislative testimony this semester created one of those opportunities.
At Northeastern University School of Law, we work hard to support students as they prepare for contemporary law practice. We know that litigation is an important tool, but far from the only one that lawyers use to protect their clients’ interests and advocate for social change. Thus, after researching and writing a challenging memo about a tort issue from a litigation angle, my students this semester examined related issues from a policy standpoint: they prepared and presented oral and written legislative testimony in a simulated state legislative hearing about a possible end to tort remedies.
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.—Nelson R. Mandela, 1964