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 have regularly co-hosted a module for Orientation with the goal of raising DEI as a core issue in legal education.
- Common Read: In Fall 2020 and Fall 2021, incoming 1Ls were required to read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Maine Law faculty moderated 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 ten Maine Law faculty members. The course 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. In Fall 2022, Maine Law will offer this course again, team taught by 100% of Maine Law faculty.
- Changing Laws: In January 2021, Maine Law offered this new course, team taught by several Maine Law faculty members. Over 45 students enrolled in the course, which covered 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: Offered in Fall 2021, this was a new course taught by Adjunct Professor Krystal Williams (’17) of the Alpha Legal Foundation. In light of the social injustices that abound, this course explored the following questions: How do 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? The 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.
- Impact Lawyering: A Practicum for Social Justice Reform. Offered in Spring 2022, this new course was an expansion of the Changing Laws course that was team taught in January 2021. The course provided students with a comprehensive overview of the strategies and practical skills necessary to advocate effectively for public policy reform. Students identified a pressing systemic racial, economic, or social injustice in the community, which could be addressed through a change in law, regulation, ordinance, or other public policy and learn how to advance a solution. Students employed equity-based criteria for policy development, conducted a landscape analysis of decision-makers and influencers, determined a strategy for change, and implemented the tactics necessary to carry out that strategy. Specific skills covered included “power mapping”; drafting legislative and/or regulatory proposals; locating, evaluating, and using social science research and data; lobbying elected officials; preparing and delivering written and oral testimony; working in coalition; and developing communications tools and targeted messaging. In addition to learning the strategies and skills to advance a policy change, students gained an understanding of the broader context for influencing law and public policy and the possible roles lawyers can play in social change efforts.
- Beyond the Headlines: Professors Northrop, Moffa, and Pi participated in “Beyond the Headlines” Q&A with students. Started in Fall 2021, Beyond the Headlines provides a forum for friendly conversations during the semester connecting legal thinking to current events and our personal commitment to justice.
- Human Library. The inaugural Human Library took place in Fall 2021. The Human Library brings curious minds together to create a brave space where event speakers (“books”) from unique and diverse backgrounds share their stories with attendees (“readers” – meaning you!). The intimate, small group setting aims to provide a comfortable atmosphere for open discussion and positive change around topics that society has traditionally deemed “taboo.”
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).
- Civil Rights Litigation: Taught by Professor Caruso, this course focuses on the process and particular challenges of litigating civil rights, and particularly of litigating constitutional rights against the government. The course deals with a variety of rights that are central to current social justice advocacy, including policing and use of force, incarceration and confinement, and myriad forms of private discrimination (in things like employment and housing). It also explores institutional impact litigation, such as school desegregation and prison reform litigation, and the possibilities and limitations of that kind of structural litigation in the current context. Pervasive themes of the course include ways that governments limit and shape their own liability and that of their agents, the consequences of litigation and claim procedure for substantive access to justice and relief, and the role and obligations of attorneys in social movements.
- 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, Professor Bloomberg incorporated numerous readings and cases regarding these issues, including writings by Frederick Douglass, Charles Black, and Barack Obama. Professor Bloomberg 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.
- Criminal Law Seminar: Professor Pi emphasized the history of race rioting/rebellion from the 1960s to the 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.
- 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.
- 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’ 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 US 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: Jill Ward, Adjunct Professor and Director of the Maine Center for Juvenile Policy & Law, 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.
- Local Government Law: Local governments are deliverers of important public services, and also sites of community building, self-identity, and civic engagement. Among the core themes for this course on the fundamentals of local government law, taught by Professor Caruso, are: who is included when we legally define communities, who gets to decide what interests a municipality will serve, and what different structures mean for who gets to participate in governing choices, and how. The course explicitly explores local government both for its history and possibilities for empowering and protecting minority and vulnerable communities, and the persistent use of municipal law and urban policy to limit, exclude, and disempower marginalized groups- particularly racial and ethnic minority communities in urban spaces.
- Nonprofit Organizations: Professor Pitegoff’s Spring 2022 course included examination of the central role of nonprofit organizations and philanthropy in grappling with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This involved current institutional initiatives, as well as the evolution of tax law promoting anti-poverty efforts, community revitalization, and inclusive nonprofit governance
- 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.
- Professional Responsibility: Professor Pitegoff’s Spring 2022 course included a collaborative mid-term project assessing a new disciplinary rule addressing discrimination and harassment in the legal profession. In small groups, students analyzed ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(g), which was recently adopted in Maine. Each group produced a policy paper and discussed the rationale, history, value, and criticism of the Rule, and how best to improve upon it. Throughout the semester, the class explored issues of inequity and access to justice, particularly with respect to criminal defense and civil legal services for indigent clients.
- 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.
- Taxation I: Professor Maine’s course 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.
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 youths 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 discussions 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. 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.
Refugee and Human Rights Clinic (RHHC)
The Refugee and Human Rights Clinic created a new report entitled “Lives in Limbo: How the Boston Asylum Office Fails Asylum Seekers.” Over the last three years, the RHRC has engaged in a multi-modal advocacy project, which includes an ongoing FOIA lawsuit in federal court as well as a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative investigation into the practices and policies at the Boston Asylum Office. The results of the investigation culminated in this final report that highlights systemic problems (including bias) associated with the adjudication of asylum applications, problems which impact not only Maine asylum seekers but asylum applicants across the country. The report has already received considerable attention including, e.g., by Human Rights First as well as local and regional media outlets. The project recently received the national Clinical Legal Education Association’s Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Project.
- 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. 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.|
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 Adjunct Professor Ward on the on the Racial and Ethnic Disparities Committee of the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory group, a gubernatorial appointment.
|Professor Pitegoff serves on the board of directors at Avesta Housing, a leading nonprofit affordable housing developer, manager, and advocate in Maine and New Hampshire. Avesta provides housing opportunities to low-income individuals and families, many who are recent immigrants and people of color, and engages in policy advocacy to expand housing options for those in need. Professor Pitegoff also serves on the board of directors of the Surf Point Foundation, an arts and artist residency foundation, based in York, Maine. The Foundation’s attention to race and equity in governance and program activity includes board policies, board composition, selecting artists for residencies, and outreach and funding to minority arts organizations.|
|Jill Ward, Adjunct Professor and Director of the Maine Center for Juvenile Policy & Law, serves on the Advisory Board of the Freedom & Captivity project, a state-wide public humanities initiative in partnership with Colby College and the other Maine universities, organizations and institutions to bring critical perspectives on issues of race, mass incarceration and justice. She is Chair of the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group (JJAG), a gubernatorial appointment, and serves with Professor Northrop on the JJAG Racial and Ethnic Disparities Committee. She is also board president of the League of Women Voters of Maine which works to make government more equitable, inclusive, and accessible by improving elections, protecting and engaging voters, increasing civic engagement, and reducing the influence of private money in politics.|
|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. She also consulted with staff of the HBO Program Real Sports, hosted by Bryant Gumbel, on legal and related in the NFL Concussion settlement.|