Maine Law faculty are engaged in a wide range of activities designed to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the law. Below are some recent examples:

  • Orientation Programming. Professor Northrop and Associate Dean Wilshusen co-hosted a module for Orientation 2020 with the goal of raising DEI as a core issue in legal education.
  • Common Read. Incoming 1Ls are required to read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Maine Law faculty and several staff members will moderate small reading group sessions as part of Orientation.
  • Racial Injustice in the Law. In Fall 2020, Maine Law offered this new course, team taught by Maine Law faculty members – Professors Bordelon, Davik, Feinberg, Maine, Moffa, Norchi, Pitegoff, Schindler, Welch, and Wriggins. The course, attended by 21 students, examined racial injustice issues throughout a wide range of legal fields, including Property, Tax, Criminal Law, Business Law, Family Law, and many others, with different faculty members leading various sessions.
  • Changing Laws. In January 2021, Maine Law offered a second new course, team taught by several Maine Law faculty members. Over 45 students have enrolled in the course, which will cover numerous topics, such as controlled substances, criminal/court records sealing and expungement, policing in schools/education disparities, and right/access to counsel.
  • Social Justice Lawyering. Krystal Williams ’17 of the Alpha Legal Foundation will teach this course in the Fall 2021. Contrary to historical depictions of a lone lawyer against a system, true social change is often accomplished through collaborative and communal efforts. Leadership, then, depends less on individual power, but on harnessing collective power. In light of the social injustices that abound, this course will explore the following questions: how we change the systems that allow a few to profit from the suffering of many? When, why, and how do people come together to effect change? And, what is a lawyer’s role in the process? This bridge class is, ultimately, a course in practical leadership development where knowledge of the law and legal strategies are combined with self-awareness, resilience, and community support to create integrated and committed legal practitioners capable of engaging persuasively on various topics of national and global interest. This course will examine select cases of successful efforts to advance human rights in order to (1) learn key principles and (2) apply the strategies to the prominent issues of today. Students will have the opportunity to engage members of the legal community on issues of systemic discrimination through community circle discussions offered through the Alpha Legal Foundation.

Many Maine Law faculty have incorporated social justice themes, including issues of race, in particular, into their assigned readings and class discussions. The following examples highlight some of the issues raised in select courses.

  • Cannabis Law. Professor Bloomberg focused numerous class discussions on racial inequities in cannabis law, and dedicated separate classes to impacts of the war on drugs on communities of color and to building social equity in the cannabis industry.
  • Constitutional Law. Professor Bloomberg’s Constitutional Law class largely revolved around issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation. In addition to the core Constitutional Law cases in these areas, he incorporated numerous readings and cases regarding these issues, including writings by Frederick Douglass, Charles Black, and Barack Obama. He also focused on the (often overlooked) history around the Reconstruction Era in teaching the Fourteenth Amendment. This history provides key context for understanding our nation’s current shortcomings in racial justice.
  • Contracts. Professor Feinberg incorporated readings/discussions that address diversity-related concerns, particularly in the context of the doctrine of unconscionability and in determinations of how the “reasonable person” would view a given situation.
  • Elder Law. Professor Feinberg’s assigned readings and discussions focused on topics such as: (1) racial disparities in the context of the Social Security Program; (2) the disproportionate toll that that the pandemic has taken on women, including in the context of retirement savings; (3) discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals in the context of housing for the elderly; and (4) racial disparities in advance directives and end of life care.
  • Employment Law. Vice Dean Bam required students to read an article about the “Me Too” movement when discussing sex discrimination in the workplace.
  • Evidence. In addition to addressing the intersection of race and Evidence law throughout the course, Professor Smith held a special discussion with Evidence students at the end of the semester to provide a chance for them to apply what they had learned throughout the course and to consider how the rules as a whole and specific rules could have a racialized impact in terms of their text or how courts allow them to be used in practice. The students discussed this observation by Professor Jasmine B. Gonzales Rose: “At trial, the facts are not determined through an independent investigation of the truth but by how the rules of evidence are employed to admit or exclude evidence. Attorneys use evidence rules to establish the story that the finder of fact, be it a judge or jury, considers in rendering its findings or verdicts. It is often taken for granted that evidence law applies equally to all persons and provides everyone an equal voice in the courtroom, irrespective of race. [In truth,] evidence law and practice structurally disadvantages people of color.” The students discussed the admission of a defendant’s criminal history or rap lyrics at trial, among other examples.
  • Family Law. Professor Feinberg’s assigned readings and discussions focused on topics such as: (1) the role of race in the historical and current laws governing family privacy, marriage entry, and child custody; (2) the role of gender in the historical and current laws governing marital rights, divorce, property distribution, alimony, and child custody; (3) the role of sexual orientation in historical and current laws governing family privacy, marriage entry, parentage establishment, and child custody; (4) class-based considerations in the context of spousal and child support; and (5) issues faced by transgender individuals in the child custody context.
  • Health Care Law & Policy. Professor Wriggins’’s course, which is open to MPH students and MBA students, dealt extensively with race and equity issues. It covered the racial segregation and racist history of the U.S. health care system and the changes wrought by the passage of Medicare. It foregrounded issues of race and access to health care throughout the US health care “system.” It focused on legal issues connected with racial and other types of discrimination in health care (such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Students also read important works focusing on reform by experts such as Dayna Bowen Mathews and others. They also spent significant time discussing rural health care access and funding.
  • Juvenile Law. Professor Northrop and Associate Dean Wilshusen incorporated DEI and anti-racism more broadly throughout the course as a critical consideration for system-involved youth.
  • Privacy Law. Professor Bloomberg focused numerous class discussions on how privacy law has historically prejudiced women, minorities, and other disfavored groups. He also assigned group projects on facial recognition software and e-carceration.
  • Professional Responsibility. Professor Pitegoff addressed issues of equity and inclusion pervasively in this course, including attention to racial disparities in the criminal justice system and an intensive mid-term assignment assessing the new ethical rule on discrimination and harassment in the legal profession.
  • Tax Law. Professor Maine highlighted and discussed several racial disparities in the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Torts. Professor Moffa’s Torts course included two separate guest lectures by Prof. Jenny Wriggins, accompanied by reading assignments from her book, The Measure of Injury: Race, Gender, and Tort Law, and her Howard Law Journal piece, “Torts, Race, and the Value of Injury, 1900-1949.” The students also read and discussed a piece by critical race theorist Mari Matsuda, On Causation, in which she demonstrates how the tort system sacrifices human bodies to maintain the smooth flow of the economic system.
  • The United States Legal System. Teaching at Duke Kunshan University, Professor Thaler provided readings and conducted written and oral exercises that in part involved issues of environmental and climate justice, the disproportionate impact of policing behavior on people of color, the high rate of incarceration in the U.S., and the impacts on minorities of an overly-burdensome and restrictive set of asylum and immigration policies.

Principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion are deeply embedded in the everyday work of Maine Law’s clinical programs. Through each of the clinical programs, students deal directly with the impact of systems on low-income individuals, people of color and other historically-marginalized populations and learn how to advocate on behalf of their clients. In addition to representing individual clients on a wide-range of case types, students also engaged this year in appellate litigation and policy work in an effort to combat systemic racism – whether it be seeking to combat racism within the U.S. asylum process through the filing of a lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or through the recent filing of a complaint in federal court seeking to end the unethical transfers of ICE detainees in Maine to areas down south or through ongoing work to close down the state’s school to prison pipeline, which has a significant disproportionate effect on youth of color and youth suffering from a disability or learning difference. This project involves faculty and students advocating for ongoing reforms to keep youth out of the justice system and to increase investment in community alternatives to incarceration; changing school policies to prevent suspensions, expulsions, and other exclusionary practices that keep youth from engaging in their education programs; and providing state-wide training to juvenile defenders and education advocates that provide the skills and support necessary to do this work well.

In addition to developing these practical legal skills through case and project work, the Clinic experience fosters in students a deeper understanding of the inequities that exist within the legal system, a practice of listening to those who suffer at the hands of unjust systems, and the skills to take action to address systemic biases. This year, each of the clinic-wide seminar classes infused readings, exercises and discussion relevant to bias, social justice and anti-racism, along with specific classes on cultural humility, lawyering for social justice, and trauma-informed lawyering. Our Clinic’s summer program also features weekly student-directed and student-led dialogue on the inequity in the law where topics such as school to prison pipeline, racial disparities in health care, white saviorism, among many others, are explored. The summer program also incorporates bias and racism in mindfulness teaching of law students, including bringing in the work of Professor Rhonda Magee.

Prof. Jessica Feinberg Professor Feinberg’s article, “After Marriage Equality: Dual Fatherhood for Married Male Same-Sex Couples,” was published at 54 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1507 (2021).
Prof. Anthony Moffa

 

Professor Moffa’s article, “Environmental Indifference,” will soon be published at 45 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming 2021). An incarcerated American underclass, disproportionately comprised of minority citizens, has been compelled to live in an unconstitutionally polluted environment. This work, using radon exposure litigation as a case study, explains how environmental harms in prisons threaten lives and violate the Constitution.

Prof. Anna Welch Professor Welch supervised the publication of Know Your Rights materials for Immigrant Youth relevant to racial profiling and ICE enforcement (Fall 2020).
Prof. Jennifer Wriggins

Professor Wriggins article, “The Color of Property and Auto Insurance: Time for Reform,” has been accepted for publication in the Florida State University Law Review.

She also authored a blog post in February 2020, which was widely distributed (Race and the Law Blog, Torts Prof blog, others).

 

Associate Professor Greg Bordelon Professor Bordelon was a panelist on the Hot Topics Panel on Serving Students in Serious Financial Situations at the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. He discussed the disproportionate impact of bar application character and fitness questions related to finances on minority bar applicants.
Prof. Christine Davik Professor Davik has been selected as one of the 28 faculty members from the University of Maine System invited to participate in the Summer Academy of Adult Learning and Teaching (“SAALT”) 2021 program sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. SAALT is a 4-day immersive faculty development conference (week of July 19th) designed to build a UMS community of forward-thinking and innovative faculty.
Prof. Jessica Feinberg Professor Feinberg presented her article, “After Marriage Equality: Dual Fatherhood for Married Male Same-Sex Couples,” which focuses on parentage rights for LGBTQ individuals, at two conferences in the summer 2020 (Law & Society and SEALS). She also served as a discussion facilitator for Pay Equity in the Legal Profession, which was sponsored by the Women’s Initiative of the Association of Corporate Counsel (Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, September 2019).
Prof. Anthony Moffa Professor Moffa presented on April 15th at the Harvard Environmental Law Review’s Environmental Justice Symposium, a conversation on environmental justice with experts on community lawyering, air pollution, urban agriculture, Indian law, climate change, and more. The event featured a keynote by Dr. Robert Bullard, the “father of environmental justice,” and a presentation of Professor Moffa’s forthcoming article “Environmental Indifference.”
Prof. Charles Norchi Professor Norchi and five University of Maine faculty (our Arctic science and law group) had a two-hour Diversity & Inclusion Training session in May. The training, which is mandated by the National Science Foundation which funds the program, guided participants in discussions around understanding race as it pertains to them, systems of privilege, and racism.
Prof. Chris Northrop

Professor Northrop was a panelist on Racial Injustice: Reimagining Policy and Public Safety (June 19, 2020). He hosted a talk by Prof. Kris Henning (Director of Georgetown Law’s JJ Clinic and Racial Justice Initiative) as part of Maine Law’s “Lunch with a Side of Revolution” series (August 4, 2020). He also served on the Development Committee and Conference Faculty for Every Student, All Day, Every Day: Legal Strategies to Keep Maine Kids in School, KIDS Legal, Disability Rights Center of Maine, Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic Education Law Conference, Augusta, Maine (November 2019).

 

Prof. Jeff Thaler Professor Thaler worked with Maine Law’s Energy and Environmental Law Society to host: Environmental & Climate Justice: Anti-Racist Movements and Principles for Practice (October 2020). He also participated in a webinar of the American College of Environmental Lawyers on Environmental Justice.
Prof. Anna Welch Professor Welch was a panelist on the Maine Law panel on Law as a Tool of Oppression (April 2019). Her focus was on immigration law. She was also a presenter at the MDI Racial Equity Working Group, “Immigration Law in these Challenging Times,” Bar Harbor, ME (February 2020).
Prof. Jennifer Wriggins Professor Wriggins presented for the Northern District of California Judicial Conference on Race, Racism and Civil Justice. She also spoke at Rutgers Law School on a panel on “Race in the Curriculum,” which was part of the widely-attended program “Race and the Law: Building an Anti-Racist Curriculum and Law School.” She also was a panelist at UMS TRANSFORMS: Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on April 23. In recent months, she has presented at numerous law schools, including Yale Law School, Michigan Law School, Duke Law School, University of Washington School of Law, and University of Miami School of Law. Most of these presentations focused on racism and the torts curriculum.
  • Professors Bam, Bloomberg, Norchi, Thaler, and Welch participated in a joint course with the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center, the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, and Maine Law. The course, titled “Understanding the COVID-19 Pandemic,” touched on disparate impacts of the pandemic.
  • Professors Welch and Beer presented during a concurrent session at the New England Clinicians Conference on March 26. The title of the presentation was “Reimagining the Clinic Seminar through the Lens of Justice Lawyerings.”
Vice Dean Bam Vice Dean Bam serves as Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion subcommittee of the Portland Chamber Music Festival Board (and also serves on the board of the organization).
Associate Professor Greg Bordelon Professor Bordelon assisted in drafting the joint Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) and AALS-Academic Support Programs Section statement on racial injustice (July 2020).
Prof. Jessica Feinberg

Professor Feinberg served on the Planning Committee for the Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network Program at the 2020 Law and Society Conference.

 

Prof. Anthony Moffa Professor Moffa advises “Color of Climate,” a group of Maine youth led by Lewiston City Councillor Safiya Khalid to raise awareness and promote action on climate change, with a focus on youth in marginalized communities.
Prof. Chris Northrop

Professor Northrop was appointed to Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group’s DEI committee in October 2020.

 

Prof. Peter Pitegoff Professor Pitegoff is a board member and officer at Surf Point Foundation, an arts and artist residency foundation, based in York, Maine. He is working to strengthen explicit racial justice goals and practices in governance and program activity, and also successfully helping to add several new board members of color. He is also a board member at Avesta Housing, a nonprofit affordable housing organization based in Portland, Maine, where he supported Avesta’s participation in the Portland Regional Chamber’s “21-Day Racial Equity Challenge,” designed to create dedicated space to deal with issues of race, power, privilege, and leadership.
Prof. Jennifer Wriggins Professor Wriggins consulted with staff of PBS Program, Raising our Roots, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, on legal issues involving tort litigation in Mississippi in the early twentieth century (program will air in 2021). She also consulted with staff of the HBO Program Real Sports, hosted by Bryant Gumbel, on legal and related in the NFL Concussion settlement.