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Beyond “Valid and Reliable”: The LSAT, ABA Standard 503, and the Future of Law School Admissions

Eremipagamo M. Amabebe

For nearly a century, the American Bar Association (ABA) has overseen the standards governing accredited law schools, which in turn constitute the primary pathway to the practice of law in the United States. ABA Standard 503 requires that all such schools use a “valid and reliable” examination to assess candidates for admission. Currently, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is the only examination that the ABA has officially recognized as satisfying the standard. However, the LSAT—now approaching its eightieth year—has strayed far from the purposes it was originally designed to serve. Once a simple tool to aid in the assessment of diverse applicants, it has in recent decades become a significant barrier to entry with disparate negative impacts on women, racial minorities, individuals of low socioeconomic status, and, perhaps most egregiously, those with disabilities. This Note argues that Standard 503 should be rescinded. Such a step is necessary both to stimulate innovation in law school admissions and to fulfill the ABA’s mandate of promoting diversity in the legal profession and serving the larger public good.

Disability and Design

Christopher Buccafusco

When scholars contemplate the legal tools available to policymakers for encouraging innovation, they primarily think about patents. If they are keeping up with the most recent literature, they may also consider grants, prizes, and taxes as means to increase the supply of innovation. But the innovation policy toolkit is substantially deeper than that. To demonstrate its depth, this Article explores the evolution of designs that help people with disabilities access the world around them. From artificial limbs to the modern wheelchair and the reshaping of the built environment, a variety of legal doctrines have influenced, for better and for worse, the pace and direction of innovation for accessible design.

This Article argues that two of the most important drivers of innovation for accessible design have been social welfare laws and antidiscrimination laws. Both were responsible, in part, for the revolution in accessibility that occurred in the second half of the twentieth century. Unlike standard innovation incentives, however, these laws operate on the demand side of the market. Social welfare laws and antidiscrimination laws increase the ability and willingness of parties to pay for accessible technology, ultimately leading to greater supply. But in doing so, these laws generate a different distribution of the costs and benefits of innovation than supply-side incentives. They also produce their own sets of innovation distortions by allowing third parties to make decisions about the designs that people with disabilities have to use.

The law can promote innovation, and it can hinder it. For example, the law’s relationship to the wheelchair, the most important accessibility innovation of the twentieth century, produced both results. Policymakers have choices about which legal incentives doctrines they can use and how they can use them. This Article evaluates those tools, and it provides guidelines for their use to encourage accessible technology in particular and innovation generally.

Permanently Excluded

Maia M. Cole

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) deprives hundreds of residents of their housing every year without affording them due process. Based on the allegedly undesirable behavior of one household member, NYCHA can begin a termination of tenancy action against an entire family. Using the threat of termination as leverage, NYCHA coerces the tenant of record into permanently excluding the “undesirable” occupant, barring them from living with or visiting their family. The excluded family member is given no notice of the termination action and no opportunity to contest their permanent exclusion.

This Note contends that authorized occupants in NYCHA housing have due process rights which mandate notice and the opportunity to be heard before they lose their home. NYCHA does not currently recognize such rights. But, as this Note will show, authorized occupants have a property interest in public housing. NYCHA’s practice of permanent exclusion deprives them of that interest. This Note suggests alternatives for NYCHA to consider instead of relying on permanent exclusion as a means of crime reduction. Ultimately, the goal of this Note is to push NYCHA to live up to its mission: to provide decent and affordable housing to low-income New Yorkers.

The Case Against Criminalizing Homelessness: Functional Barriers to Shelters and Homeless Individuals’ Lack of Choice

Joy H. Kim

In 2018, the Ninth Circuit ruled in Martin v. City of Boise that the city’s ordinance criminalizing individuals for sleeping or camping outdoors in public space—an increasingly popular method for cities to regulate the homeless—is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause. Martin was not the first case in which a court struck down an anti-homeless ordinance under the Eighth Amendment. However, it was the first to deem it unconstitutional for a city to punish a homeless person for sleeping outside when shelters are not “practically available,” even if they technically have available beds. The court in Martin said the shelters at issue were not practically available because they were religiously coercive. This Note argues, however, that courts reviewing criminalization measures should consider whether shelters are practically available to homeless individuals for reasons beyond religious coercion. Many functional barriers to shelter deprive homeless individuals of a meaningful choice, and the Eighth Amendment prevents governments from punishing individuals for matters beyond their control. Courts should make individualized inquiries when considering the constitutionality of criminalization measures to assess whether individuals experiencing homelessness truly have a meaningful “choice” in sleeping outside. However, the constitutional infirmities behind criminalization measures, the highly factual inquiries required of courts to determine their constitutionality, and their exacerbation of homelessness underscore the need for cities to stop criminalizing homelessness.

Revisiting Hate Crimes Enhancements in the Shadow of Mass Incarceration

Shirin Sinnar, Beth A. Colgan

Although civil rights advocates have largely supported hate crimes laws over the last four decades, growing concern over mass incarceration is now leading some to question the focus on enhancing prison sentences. This Essay explores two alternatives to the traditional sentence enhancement model that might retain the expressive message of hate crimes laws—to convey society’s particular condemnation of crimes of bias—while relying less heavily on police and prisons: the reformation of victim compensation programs to help victims and targeted communities and the application of restorative justice processes to hate crimes. Each of these alternatives presents complications, but both offer sufficient potential to justify further exploration.

Anti-Segregation Policing

Monica C. Bell

Conversations about police reform in lawmaking and legal scholarship typically take a narrow view of the multiple, complex roles that policing plays in American society, focusing primarily on their techniques of crime control. This Article breaks from that tendency, engaging police reform from a sociological perspective that focuses instead on the noncriminal functions of policing. In particular, it examines the role of policing in the daily maintenance of racial residential segregation, one of the central strategies of American racial inequality. Unlike previous work that touches on these issues, this Article argues that police reformers and police leaders should adopt an anti-segregation approach to policing. It also offers legal frameworks and policy prescriptions that flow from an anti-segregation ethic in police governance.

This Article begins by setting forth a rich account of residential segregation, clarifying the distinction between easily measurable proxies for segregation and the type of segregation with which law and policy should be concerned: the spatial separation that confines, subordinates, and dominates. It then identifies and illustrates six mechanisms through which American policing perpetuates residential segregation, drawing from sociological research, including qualitative narratives collected in Dallas County, Texas; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; and Baltimore, Maryland. Next, the Article sketches the architecture of anti-segregation policing, offering legal frameworks based on fair housing law and federal and state consent decrees, as well as a non-exhaustive set of practical approaches police departments could take to advance an anti-segregation agenda. Finally, the Article engages a fundamental question central to police transformation movements today: Is meaningful police reform, including anti-segregation policing, possible in a society that is structured through race?

Closing the Racial Wealth Gap

Mehrsa Baradaran

This Article explores a few remedies to closing the racial wealth gap rooted in a theory of contract damages. The U.S. government has failed to live up to its promises to Black Americans to treat them equally under the law and thus a remedy is justified. Though a full reparations program is necessary and theoretically justified, this Article does not focus on a full-scale reparations program. Rather, the Article explores how a housing grant might work as one solution to closing the racial wealth gap given the current constitutional interpretation and political barriers.

 

Adverse Employment Actions in Failure-to-Accommodate Claims: Much Ado About Nothing

Nicole Buonocore Porter

This Article addresses a circuit split in the disability law jurisprudence. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees generally bring two types of claims against their employers—discrimination claims and failure-to-accommodate claims. Succeeding on a discrimination claim requires proving that the employee suffered an adverse employment action. Succeeding on a failure-to-accommodate claim does not. But several courts—including a recent case in the Tenth Circuit—have added this adverse- employment-action requirement into failure-to-accommodate claims. In doing so, these courts have camouflaged important issues about an employer’s obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation to disabled employees. Although I believe that courts that require an adverse employment action in failure-to-accommodates claim do so in error, the main contribution of this Article is to reveal how courts have obscured and confused broader disability-accommodation issues by imposing that requirement.

Beyond #MeToo

Deborah Tuerkheimer

The #MeToo movement has ushered in a new kind of sexual misconduct accusation—accusation leveled through informal channels of communication. A functional analysis shows that unofficial reporting can advance important ends. But the rise of informal accusation should be of special concern to legal scholars and lawyers, who generally proceed from certain assumptions regarding the primacy of formal systems of accountability. These basic assumptions need revision if, by aiming to satisfy goals that our laws and legal institutions fail to achieve, informal reporting channels are serving as substitutes for the officially sanctioned mechanisms of accountability that monopolize scholarly attention. Unofficial reporting pathways are imperfect legal workarounds; their prevalence means that the law of sexual misconduct has been consigned to a relative state of quiescence. Over time, survivors, long disserved by the criminal law, by campus disciplinary processes, and by workplace complaint structures, have mostly turned away from the systems that have forsaken them. A needed redesign of official complaint channels should be informed by the benefits of informal reporting, along with a commitment to awakening law. 

Dirty Data, Bad Predictions: How Civil Rights Violations Impact Police Data, Predictive Policing Systems, and Justice

Rashida Richardson, Jason M. Schultz, Kate Crawford

Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using predictive policing systems to forecast criminal activity and allocate police resources. Yet in numerous jurisdictions, these systems are built on data produced during documented periods of flawed, racially biased, and sometimes unlawful practices and policies (“dirty policing”). These policing practices and policies shape the environment and the methodology by which data is created, which raises the risk of creating inaccurate, skewed, or systemically biased data (“dirty data”). If predictive policing systems are informed by such data, they cannot escape the legacies of the unlawful or biased policing practices that they are built on. Nor do current claims by predictive policing vendors provide sufficient assurances that their systems adequately mitigate or segregate this data.

In our research, we analyze thirteen jurisdictions that have used or developed predictive policing tools while under government commission investigations or federal court monitored settlements, consent decrees, or memoranda of agreement stemming from corrupt, racially biased, or otherwise illegal policing practices. In particular, we examine the link between unlawful and biased police practices and the data available to train or implement these systems. We highlight three case studies: (1) Chicago, an example of where dirty data was ingested directly into the city’s predictive system; (2) New Orleans, an example where the extensive evidence of dirty policing practices and recent litigation suggests an extremely high risk that dirty data was or could be used in predictive policing; and (3) Maricopa County, where despite extensive evidence of dirty policing practices, a lack of public transparency about the details of various predictive policing systems restricts a proper assessment of the risks. The implications of these findings have widespread ramifications for predictive policing writ large. Deploying predictive policing systems in jurisdictions with extensive histories of unlawful police practices presents elevated risks that dirty data will lead to flawed or unlawful predictions, which in turn risk perpetuating additional harm via feedback loops throughout the criminal justice system. The use of predictive policing must be treated with high levels of caution and mechanisms for the public to know, assess, and reject such systems are imperative.

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