Faculty Post: Bringing Disability Justice to Analysis of Trans* Legal Issues

by Gabriel Arkles, Legal Research and Writing Professor

In 2006, Christina Sforza, a homeless Latina transgender woman, went to a MacDonald’s in NYC with her friends. While there, she used the women’s restroom. Trans women should always be able to use the restroom that matches their gender identity, but in this case she didn’t have an alternative anyway: the men’s room was out of order. Christina even asked an employee which restroom to use and the employee pointed her to the women’s room. Nonetheless, when she was inside it someone began pounding on the door and threatening to kill her unless she came out. When she did, a MacDonald’s manager began beating her with a lead pipe on her chest, groin, head, and arms. Employees began chanting “Kill the faggot!” Christina’s friend called the police. Christina was on the floor bleeding when the police arrived. Still, when her attacker accused her of being a “man in the women’s restroom,” the police arrested Christina rather than her attacker. While the charges against Christina were ultimately dismissed, the police threatened to arrest her again when she tried to make a complaint against her attacker.

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Faculty Post: The Freedman Retreat

by Professor Mary O’Connell

Every November, I make my way to Dedham, Massachusetts – which is not on my usual itinerary. There I meet with the judges of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court as part of the Court’s annual Freedman Retreat. The retreat is a rare opportunity for the judges to leave the courtroom for two days and come together to talk about issues of interest and concern in the ever-changing landscape of family law.

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Student Post: Time to get to work…


by Andrew ’16

In the months leading up to law school, many “law students to-be” engage in vast amounts of research about what it is like to be in “law school.”  Luckily there are various websites that happily pander to the inquisitive future 1L.  Using their imagination and a little information, a future law student can create an image of how the unknown may turn out.

Before I started law school, I spent most of my time wondering about the classrooms and methods of teaching.  You read books like “The Paper Chase” or “1L” and come away with the idea that a law classroom is an awful place, where blood pressures run high and confidence runs low.  Physically, I imagined a cold room lit harshly with fluorescent bulbs, an angry professor glued to a lectern at the front, and insults fired at students.  The famed Socratic Method that law school is known for seemed like a form of torture used to punish hapless newbies.  I am happy to report that I have seen none of those manifestations.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.

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Faculty Post: the Fourth Era of American Civil Procedure

By Stephen Subrin, Professor of Law

When I was in law school, I was troubled that my civil procedure professor kept telling us that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“the Federal Rules”), which govern how non-criminal cases are processed in all federal trial courts, were the most enlightened procedural code on the planet. But we were not told a word about how or why they became law in 1938. It was as if these rules descended full blown from heaven.

Frustration can be an impetus for inquiry.  Upon becoming a law professor in 1970, I have spent much of my professional life trying to figure out the historical background of procedural rules – who wants and benefits from procedural change and how do they achieve procedural reform.  And so I wrote the historical background of the Federal Rules and the mid-nineteenth century Field Code (that provided rules for civil cases for over half of the citizens in the country).

With the invaluable help of my former student and frequent co-author, Thom Main ‘94, who now teaches at the William S. Boyd School of Law, U. of Nevada, Law Vegas, and countless NUSL students, I have been working on the historical background of current American civil procedure.  We call this “The Fourth Era of American Civil Procedure.”

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Faculty Post: The Boston Tragedy Reveals the Need for Community-Based Counterterrorism Strategies

This blog post was written by Northeastern University School of Law Professor Deborah Ramirez, who founded the Partnering for Prevention and Community Safety Intitiative (PfP), and her colleague, Tara Lai Quinlan, for the Huffington Post.

As part of the Boston community, we share the sadness of last week’s Boston Marathon bombings. Thanks to excellent police work and public cooperation, Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev were identified as the perpetrators and are reportedly unaffiliated with any larger terrorist network. But going forward, how can law enforcement increase its ability to identify would-be terrorists operating below the radar?

Experts point out that many terrorist groups like al Qaeda are increasingly decentralized, making them difficult to monitor and infiltrate. Experts also highlight the limited ability of the federal counterterrorism infrastructure to identify independent terrorist cells and lone wolf terrorists; the difficulty of identifying readers of extremist propaganda; and, most importantly, the challenges determining which individuals will turn to violent action. In this case, the FBI questioned Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, possibly about his interest in extremist Internet propaganda or ties to Chechnya, but apparently lacked sufficient information to detain him further. With this in mind, how can law enforcement gain the intelligence necessarily to stop potential terrorists before they act?

Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, has one proposal: he has renewed calls for increased surveillance of all Muslim communities. King asserts that this is the same practice used against Irish and Italian gangsters involved in organized crime. But that is simply not the case. Monitoring individuals suspected of involvement in organized crime is readily distinguishable from surveilling millions of American Muslims absent any reasonable suspicion criminal wrongdoing.

Moreover, there is now significant consensus among most intelligence experts that profiling based on religious affiliation is ineffective because it is too widely shared a characteristic to be a shortcut for identifying those who might engage in violence. Furthermore, as civil liberties experts have long argued, profiling based on religion unnecessarily alienates communities that could potentially serve as important partners for law enforcement in countering terrorism.

Rather than support Congressman King’s approach, we believe the Boston tragedy offers lessons to improve our national security infrastructure but remain more consistent with our democratic values of justice, fairness, and human decency.

In this case, it is now emerging from friends and associates of the Tsarnaevs that, upon reflection, they sensed something might have been amiss before the attacks. For example, Tamerlan Tsarnaev reportedly twice disrupted services at a local mosque. And there may be an additional trail of unusual speech or behavior — refusing to see friends or family, posting violent messages on the Internet, contemplating death — that would have alerted family, friends or community members to something being out of place. But whom could they have alerted to these concerns? Could they have confidence that information shared with law enforcement would be discreetly and professionally handled? Could they be assured that police would not overreact, but would instead rationally determine if there were genuine issues requiring further investigation? For law enforcement to benefit from voluntary community intelligence they must create trust relationships allowing community members to articulate concerns that may or may not indicate an intention to engage in violence. This also means incorporating collaborative, long-term community-police partnerships into the national counterterrorism strategy.

But partnerships are not easy to build. Partnerships are not achieved through coercion, force, or infiltration. They require voluntary engagement with communities through mutual trust and cooperation. This means winning the hearts and minds of communities so they become real partners in counterterrorism efforts and work collaboratively to address problems of common concern.

Partnerships have already been piloted in domestic counterterrorism efforts, and have been used for years in cities like Dearborn, Los Angeles, and London. And beyond the counterterrorism context, partnerships have achieved success in reducing gang violence in cities like Boston and Glasgow, and drugs sales in places like High Point, North Carolina. It is by relying on common sense that the national security infrastructure can be expanded to address some of its current limitations.

It is true that not all terrorist acts in the United States can be avoided, and unfortunately more will succeed. But by incorporating voluntary, partnership-based community intelligence gathering practices into our national security infrastructure, we can improve our chances of preventing some attacks.

(Reprinted with permission from Professor Ramirez. You can find original post here.)