Volume 97, Number 6
In Haiti, critical legal empowerment (CLE) offers a lens to reimagine the promise of the law in a system that has historically excluded the majority population from its protection. Beginning with the belief that tout moun se moun—all people are people—CLE requires the dismantling of doctrines and rules that create different categories of people and also demands that all-powerful actors be held accountable for rights violations under the law. In Haiti, this means that the Haitian state and, crucially, its international “partners” be made responsible to those who have been excluded not only from, but by, the law.
This Article traces the thread of legal oppression and resistance in Haiti, examining efforts by Haitian communities to make demands of the law and the legal system based on the insistence that all Haitians have equal rights, that tout moun se moun. These demands do not stop with equality, however. They also include affirmative claims of dignity and life-affirming autonomy from the state, spaces where subsistence farmers can protect unique Haitian lifeways. This insistence—on the protection of life, freedom from abuse, and extension of basic rights to subsistence—including land, food sovereignty, and clean water—is ongoing but also radically incomplete. Only once the law can encompass these rights as against powerful actors who deprive both individuals and collectives of their rights and dignity will the promise of the Haitian revolution finally be fulfilled.
As the world violently shifts and adjusts to peril, the legal profession has not been exempted from the challenge to transform itself. Within a legal empowerment practice, the question of relevance invites legal advocates and professionals to adapt and respond to the unmet legal needs arising from deepened states of inequality. This Article summarizes the experience and contributions of legal empowerment work in Puerto Rico during and after significant catastrophes. Analyzing how states of emergency and failed recovery processes affect the exercise of human dignity in Puerto Rico provides the legal profession perspective on the urgency to defend legal empowerment mainly when crises occur. Despite its importance during and after emergencies, access to justice is rarely considered an essential component of disaster preparedness or response. Unlike food, medicine, and debris removal, the capacity of individuals and communities to understand and traverse legal processes is not contemplated amidst the chaos. Survivors of emergencies who subsequently become victims of resulting economic fallout, law enforcement, and other social issues are left behind and fall through the abyss of underserved justice. A people-centered, legal empowerment approach to lawyering has proven valuable and feasible to address and respond to the acute disparities amplified during emergencies. It is also a call to a broadly defined justice community—the judiciary, agencies, lawyers, law students, and law schools—that is also at risk of peril if transformations fall short.
In 2020, the Department of Education issued a final Rule pursuant to notice-and-comment rulemaking which created the most far-reaching regulation on sexual harassment in educational institutions under Title IX to date. This Rule significantly limited the availability of administrative remedies for those experiencing sexual harassment in their educational institutions. While much has been said regarding the propriety of the substantive policy decisions advanced by the Department’s regulation, relatively little attention has been paid to the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) employed in the Rule. The Rule’s CBA found that the regulations would result in a net cost of tens of millions of dollars. In justifying their commitment to these cost-unjustified regulations, the Department relied only on a few non-quantified benefits. To make matters worse, the Department also disclaimed any responsibility to consider whether the Rule’s deregulatory policies would leave sexual harassment under-deterred. The 2020 Rule was arbitrary and capricious by reason of its faulty CBA. The Department’s failure to consider the costs associated with the Rule’s under-deterrent effects was an abrogation of their obligation to uphold Title IX’s preventative purpose.
The search doctrine has long been in a state of disarray. Fragmented into different sub-doctrines, Fourth Amendment standards of constitutional protection vary based on how the government acquires the information in question and on how courts define the search that occurred. As trespass-based searches, reasonable expectation of privacy searches, consent-based searches, third-party searches, and private searches each trigger different levels of protection, the doctrine has become what more than one Justice has termed a “crazy quilt.” This Note argues that unriddling the Fourth Amendment is easier than it might appear with the aid of the concept of knowing exposure, first discussed in Katz v. United States. An undercurrent across different strands of the search doctrine, the knowing exposure principle holds that what one “knowingly exposes to the public” is beyond the scope of Fourth Amendment protection. As the Court grapples with the search doc- trine in an age of unprecedented exposure to third parties, most recently in Carpenter v. United States, it should seek to unify the standard for searches around the foundational question of what renders one’s exposure “knowing.” Turning to Carpenter’s modifications to the third-party doctrine, this Note suggests a unified theory of knowing exposure that can apply across different kinds of searches, centering on whether the exposure is (1) knowing, (2) voluntary, and (3) reasonable.