New York Law School

Archive for July, 2010

The War on Drugs: A Legalized Form of Discrimination on the Basis of Race

In South Carolina, police in SWAT gear entered a high school, specifically targeting African American students, holding guns to students’ heads as they searched for illegal drugs. No drugs were found in this raid. In Texas, 15 percent of all of the young African American males living in one city were arrested in a drug sweep predicated on merely one tip from an informant. All of the men were innocent. Although these stories are alarming, they are not unique. All across the country African Americans are searched, detained, arrested, and incarcerated in furtherance of the War on Drugs. Masked by facially race neutral policies and procedures, the War on Drugs has become a form of legalized discrimination against minorities, specifically African Americans. We need look no farther than our jails and prisons to see the effect of the racially discriminatory policies of the War on Drugs. In some parts of…

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Unfulfilled Promises: An Analysis of Why the Thirteenth Amendment Has Been Underutilized and What We Can Do About It

Given its extraordinary breadth and ambition, someone who knew nothing about the Thirteenth Amendment beyond its text would expect it to have played a much larger role in this country’s struggle for racial justice than it has. It is baffling that the amendment’s protection against the public and private “badges and incidents” of slavery has had almost no bearing on most of the civil rights movement’s hallmark legal and legislative victories and defeats. Indeed, there is even reason to think that those who actually drafted the Thirteenth Amendment expected their labor to have had a much more profound legacy than it has. While heralding the formal and constitutional end to the institution of slavery is no small feat, the Thirteenth Amendment has been prevented from truly addressing the “badges and incidents” of slavery since very near to its ratification. Still, in light of this nation’s lingering racial caste system and…

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Identity, Judicial Philosophy, and Decision-Making

Leading up to and during her confirmation hearings, now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor received a significant amount of criticism for her 2001 remark that a “wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” This statement stoked a greater debate among the American public regarding whether personal background has a place in judicial decision-making. Those who criticized Justice Sotomayor’s statement saw it as the first step toward bias or a basis for judicial activism. Those who agreed with Justice Sotomayor pointed to the fact that law, while often abstract, has real-world implications. Certainly there is value in the discussion about whether judges should rule with…

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