New York Law School

The Challenge of Black Commentators in the Obama Era

Political commentary has certainly been contentious since the election of President Barack Obama. However, a new phenomenon has arisen since the election of the nation’s first black president: differing opinions of black commentators regarding their criticism of President Obama, especially regarding issues of race. This has led to two sharp extremes: some steadfastly defend the President on all accounts, while others have harshly criticized him, using incredibly inflammatory rhetoric in the process. Read more

Race-based Education Standards in Florida

In a move that is drawing heavy criticism from parents, educators, school board members, and community advocates, Florida’s State Board of Education just approved a plan that sets educational achievement standards at different levels based on race. Under this new plan, white and Asian students are held to a higher standard than black and Hispanic students, with the expectation that 88% of white students and 90% of Asian students will be reading at grade level by 2018, while only 74% of black students and 81% of Hispanic students are expected to be reach that same goal.  The goals for math proficiency are similar, with the highest targets set for white and Asian students and the lowest set for Hispanic and black students. Read more

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Files Complaint Challenging Specialized High Schools

On September 29, 2012, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”) filed a complaint against the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) and New York State Department of Education (NYSDOE), alleging that the admissions process for New York City’s Specialized High Schools (SHS’s) causes unjustified racially disparate impact, and is therefore in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The admissions process is determined solely by a student’s rank-order score on a multiple-choice exam called the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). LDF’s complaint alleges that this admissions process results in many qualified, high-potential students being denied access to the experiences that New York City’s Specialized High Schools offer. Read more

The Community Safety Act

It can happen anywhere. Walking home from school. Walking to the grocery store. Walking to the subway. Thousands of New Yorkers are stopped and frisked by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers every year.  Stop-and-frisk consists of two separate acts with respective levels of legal justification.  When a police officer has reasonable suspicion that a person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime, the officer may stop that person; however, in order to “frisk” or search that person, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that the person stopped has a deadly weapon or instrument.  Read more

Ethnic Slurs in the Land of the Free[dom of Speech]

In 1973, social critic and comedian George Carlin recorded a 12-minute monologue, titled “Filthy Words,” for his stand-up comedy album Occupation: Foole. In his musings, Carlin explored seven words, “curse words and swear words, the cuss words that you can’t say—that you’re not supposed to say.” The seven words were…

Click here to read the rest of this post as a PDF.

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…

Click here to read the rest of this post as a PDF.

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…

Click here to read the rest of this post as a PDF.

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…

Click here to read the rest of this post as a PDF.

The Constitutionality of Teacher Assignment Plans After Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1: What Would Justice Kennedy Do?

This paper discusses the U.S. Supreme Court case Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 and the delicate holding issued by a plurality of the Justices, in which the voluntary school desegregation plans of Seattle and Jefferson County, Kentucky were struck down as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Paying particular attention to Justice Kennedy’s enigmatic concurring opinion, this paper argues that the constitutionality of Jefferson County’s similarly administered teacher disbursement policy may have garnered five votes had the school district not settled the lawsuit against it. Perhaps more importantly, though, conducting the analysis highlights the apparent contradictions in and absurdity of the Court’s Equal Protection jurisprudence and the practical effect this has on efforts to combat the resegregation of America’s public schools.

Click here to read the rest of this post as a PDF.

Redefining the Ideal Debtor

In this Note, the author explores the ongoing impact of the current housing market decline on Black and Hispanic communities, with an emphasis on bankruptcy protections. The Note aims to impart critical information to communities uninformed about the bankruptcy process and the manner in which they can take full advantage of a bankruptcy filing to resolve their financial problems.

Click here to read the rest of this post as a PDF.