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. Adjunct Professor Krystal Williams (’17) of the Alpha Legal Foundation taught this course in 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 explored 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 was, 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 examined 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.
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:
- Administrative Law. Professor Thaler required students to write a memorandum, which was scored, on the use of administrative law tools to effect social change and justice. Students got a chance to reflect back on the issues discussed during the semester by submitting a memo applying one or more doctrines or take-aways from what was done in the semester to any area of law of the student’s interest. Whether interested in criminal, immigration, tax, health, employment, compliance or environmental or other areas of law and policy, students got a chance to tell how they would use something they learned in the semester to effect change in that area of law or policy to benefit others.
- Business Associations. Professor Pitegoff’s Fall 2021 course explored issues related to corporate responsibility and the increasing attention to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impacts of corporate enterprises. In that context, the class examined the shortcomings of corporate approaches to ESG, the lack of diversity on many corporate boards, and racial discrimination and exclusion in both employment practices and financial markets.
- Cannabis Law. Professor Bloomberg focused numerous class discussions on racial inequities in cannabis law and dedicated separate classes to the impacts of the war on drugs on communities of color and to building social equity in the cannabis industry.
- 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.
- Civil Procedure § 1. Professor Wriggins assigned supplemental readings, including the case Confederated Tribes v. Lujan (a case about joinder and necessary parties to give important context about federal Indian Law) and readings on Ashcroft v. Iqbal (a case on qualified immunity and on procedural rules that allow large litigants to readily seek to collect small amounts from pro se defendants, which raises equality issues in a surprising way). Professor Wriggins also emphasized in the course the access issues raised by different filing fees and other fees in federal court versus state court. She spoke in class about the Hansberry v. Lee case, which deals with issues of residential segregation and racism.
- Civil Procedure § 2. Professor Caruso in class evaluated ways that rules about process of litigation, particularly in federal courts, actually shape and limit access to justice, and what (and whose) interests our process rules serve. The class explored what the procedural rules mean for people without access to legal representation, and how these rules and doctrines can systematically exclude or de-value the lived experiences of minority communities. The class also explicitly studied issues related to tribal litigation in federal court; how some tools are used more, less, or differently in discrimination and other civil rights cases; and the background of systematic or legalized discrimination that make up the backdrop of several seminal civil procedure cases (including the famous case on racial housing discrimination at the heart of the acclaimed play A Raisin in the Sun).
- Criminal Law Seminar. Professor Pi emphasized the history of race rioting/rebellion from the 1960s to present. The greater part of the course involved analyzing the relationship between race and policing from a historical, statistical, and philosophical perspective.
- Criminal Procedure: Investigations. Professor Pi talked about the black/white disparity in crime rates, “high crime areas” (as a factor in determining reasonable suspicion) and discrepancies between how a “reasonable white person” and a “reasonable black person” perceive their freedom to disengage with police during a stop. Professor Pi also spoke at some length in the Criminal Procedure course about the problems of over-criminalization, the war on drugs, and abuse/misuse of Terry stops.
- Economic Development Law Practicum. Professor Pitegoff’s course, a skills course in community-based economic development, focused on economic justice, affordable housing, quality job development, finance transactions, and community revitalization, particularly in disadvantaged urban and rural settings. Explicit attention to minority-owned and women-owned enterprises, and to the history, domestic policies, and practice of economic development and finance, gave rise to a pervasive theme of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Juvenile Law. Professor Ward incorporated themes of racial disparities and systemic/structure racism throughout the semester and focused a couple of classes specifically on Race and the Juvenile Justice System and Specialized Fourth Amendment Protections in the School Context and related disparities.
- 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 technology and cyber-harassment.
- Real Estate Transactions. Professor Robertson’s course presented several opportunities to discuss and highlight racial disparities and inequities, in particular — red-lining, sub-prime loan-marketing, the foreclosure crisis, racially restrictive covenants, generational impact of structural racism in housing, lending, and more. Professor Robertson highlighted and discussed these issues and their implications.
- Selected Topics in Modern Family Law Seminar. Professor Feinberg included assigned readings and discussions focused on topics addressing: a variety of issues relating to racial discrimination within the adoption and foster care systems; discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the adoption context; the treatment of transgender individuals in the child custody context; and discrimination against same-sex couples who wish to serve as foster parents for children who enter the U.S. as unaccompanied minors.
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, DEI principles infused each of the clinic-wide seminar classes, readings, exercises, and discussions 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. The Clinic students and faculty decided to continue the student-led discussions into the fall semester. Recent topics included mass incarceration, the impact and legacy of Pauli Murray, and the removal of Indigenous Maine children from their families by the State.
- 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 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).|
|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).|
Professor Feinberg served on the Planning Committee for the Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network Program at the 2020 Law and Society Conference.
|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.|
Professor Northrop serves with Professor Ward on the on the Racial and Ethnic Disparities Committee of the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory group, a gubernatorial appointment.
|Professor Pitegoff continues to serve on the board of directors at Avesta Housing, a leading nonprofit affordable housing developer, manager, and advocate in Maine and New Hampshire. Central to the mission of Avesta is to provide housing opportunities to low-income individuals and families, including recent immigrants and people of color, and to engage in policy advocacy to expand housing options for those in need. The Avesta board continues to work expressly on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Professor Pitegoff also continues to serve on the board of directors of the Surf Point Foundation, an arts and artist residency foundation, based in York, Maine. The Foundation and its board place great importance and attention on race and equity in governance and program activity. This includes board policies, board composition, selecting artists for residencies, and outreach and funding to minority arts organizations.|
|Professor Ward serves on the Advisory Board of the Freedom & Captivity project: https://www.freedomandcaptivity.org/ In that role, she supports the development of the overall project and, along with some law student volunteers, contributed to some of the content on the website. She serves with Professor Northrop on the Racial and Ethnic Disparities Committee of the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory group, a gubernatorial appointment. She also is Chair of the full JJAG.|
|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.|