Justice and Injustice in Law and Legal Theory

University of Michigan Press
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Running through the history of jurisprudence and legal theory is a recurring concern about the connections between law and justice and about the ways law is implicated in injustice. In earlier times law and justice were viewed as virtually synonymous. Experience, however, has taught us that, in fact, injustice may be supported by law. Nonetheless, the belief remains that justice is the special concern of law.
Commentators from Plato to Derrida have called law to account in the name of justice, asked that law provide a language of justice, and demanded that it promote the attainment of justice. The justice that is usually spoken about in these commentaries is elusive, if not illusory, and disconnected from the embodied practice of law.
Furthermore, the very meaning of justice, especially as it relates to law, is in dispute. Justice may refer to distributional issues or it may involve primarily procedural questions, impartiality in judgment or punishment and recompense.
The essays collected in Justice and Injustice in Law and Legal Theory seek to remedy this uncertainty about the meaning of justice and its disembodied quality, by embedding inquiry about justice in an examination of law's daily practices, its institutional arrangements, and its engagement with particular issues at particular moments in time. The essays examine the relationship between law and justice and injustice in specific issues and practices and, in doing so, make the question of justice come alive as a concrete political question. They draw on the disciplines of history, law, anthropology, and political science.
Contributors to this volume include Nancy Coot, Joshua Coven, Robert Gorton, Frank Michelin, and Michael Tossing.
Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy, Amherst College.
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About the author

Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science, Amherst College. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy & Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, & Social Thought, Amherst College.

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University of Michigan Press
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Published on
Nov 11, 2009
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Law / General
Philosophy / General
Political Science / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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In bringing together accomplished and thoughtful scholars of different disciplines, with a command of literature ranging from the legal to the literary, and in relating the works to the central arguments of the late Professor Robert Cover, Sarat and Kearns have created a first-rate up-to-date exposition of this important and complicated issue, namely, how to understand better the violence implicit and explicit in law.--Legal Studies Forum The relationship between law and violence is made familiar to us in vivid pictures of police beating suspects, the large and growing prison population, and the tenacious attachment to capital punishment in the United States. Yet the link between law and violence and the ways that law manages to impose pain and death while remaining aloof and unstained are an unexplored mystery. Each essay in this volume considers the question of how violence done by and in the name of the law differs from illegal or extralegal violence--or, indeed, if they differ at all. Each author draws on a distinctive disciplinary tradition-- literature, history, anthropology, philosophy, political science, or law. Yet each reminds us that law, constituted in response to the metaphorical violence of the state of nature, is itself a doer of literal violence. Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science and Chair of the Program in Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, Amherst College. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy, Amherst College.

"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

The idea of legal rights today enjoys virtually universal appeal, yet all too often the meaning and significance of rights are poorly understood. The purpose of this volume is to clarify the subject of legal rights by drawing on both historical and philosophical legal scholarship to bridge the gap between these two genres--a gap that has divorced abstract and normative treatments of rights from an understanding of their particular social and cultural contexts.
Legal Rights: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives shows that the meaning and extent of rights has been dramatically expanded in this century, though along with the widespread and flourishing popularity of rights, voices of criticism have increasingly been raised. The authors take up the question of the foundation of rights and explore the postmodern challenges to efforts to ground rights outside of history and language. Drawing rich historical analysis and careful philosophical inquiry into productive dialogue, this book explores the many facets of rights at the end of the twentieth century. In these essays, potentially abstract debates come alive as they are related to the struggles of real people attempting to cope with, and improve, their living conditions. The significance of legal rights is measured not just in terms of philosophical categories or as a collection of histories, but as they are experienced in the lives of men and women seeking to come to terms with rights in contemporary life.
Contributors are Hadley Arkes, William E. Cain, Thomas Haskell, Morton J. Horwitz, Annabel Patterson, Michael J. Perry, Pierre Schlag, and Jeremy Waldron.
Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy, Amherst College.
Each year more than 2 million Americans get divorced, and most of them use a lawyer. In closed-door conversations between lawyers and their clients strategy is planned, tactics are devised, and the emotional climate of the divorce is established. Do lawyers contribute to the pain and emotional difficulty of divorce by escalating demands and encouraging unreasonable behavior? Do they take advantage of clients at a time of emotional difficulty? Can and should clients trust their lawyers to look out for their welfare and advance their long-term interests? Austin Sarat and William L. F. Felstiner's new book, based on a pioneering and intensive study of actual conferences between divorce lawyers and their clients, provides an unprecedented behind-the-scenes description of the lawyer-client relationship, and calls into question much of the conventional wisdom about what divorce lawyers actually do. Divorce Lawyers and Their Clients suggests that most divorces are marked less by a pattern of aggressive advocacy than by one of inaction and drift. It uncovers reasons why lawyers find divorce practice frustrating and difficult and why clients frequently feel dissatisfied with their lawyers. This new work provides a unique perspective on the dynamics of professionalism. It charts the complex and shifting ways lawyers and clients "negotiate" their relationship as they work out the strategy and tactics of divorce. Sarat and Felstiner show how both lawyers and clients are able to draw on resources of power to set the agenda of their interaction, while neither one is fully in charge. Rather, power shifts between the two parties; where it is achieved, power is found in the ability to have one's understandings of the social and legal worlds of divorce accepted. Power then works through the creation of shared meanings. Divorce Lawyers and Their Clients examines the effort to create such shared meanings about the nature of marriage and why marriages fail, the operation of the legal process, and the best way to bring divorces to closure. It will be fascinating reading for anyone who is going through a divorce, or has gone through one, as well as for lawyers, judges, and scholars of law and society.
The work at hand for bridging the racial divide in the United States From Baltimore and Ferguson to Flint and Charleston, the dream of a post-racial era in America has run up against the continuing reality of racial antagonism. Current debates about affirmative action, multiculturalism, and racial hate speech reveal persistent uncertainty and ambivalence about the place and meaning of race – and especially the black/white divide – in American culture. They also suggest that the work of racial reconciliation remains incomplete. Racial Reconciliation and the Healing of a Nation seeks to assess where we are in that work, examining sources of continuing racial antagonism among blacks and whites. It also highlights strategies that promise to promote racial reconciliation in the future. Rather than revisit arguments about the importance of integration, assimilation, and reparations, the contributors explore previously unconsidered perspectives on reconciliation between blacks and whites. Chapters connect identity politics, the rhetoric of race and difference, the work of institutions and actors in those institutions, and structural inequities in the lives of blacks and whites to our thinking about tolerance and respect. Going beyond an assessment of the capacity of law to facilitate racial reconciliation, Racial Reconciliation and the Healing of a Nation challenges readers to examine social, political, cultural, and psychological issues that fuel racial antagonism, as well as the factors that might facilitate racial reconciliation.
Why do some lawyers devote themselves to a given social movement or political cause? How are such deeds of individual commitment and personal belief justly executed, given the ideals of disinterested professional service to which lawyers are (in theory, at least) supposed to adhere? What can we learn from such lawyers about the relationship between law and politics? Cause Lawyering is a wise and varied collection of responses to these questions, featuring a number of distinguished legal scholars concerned with anti-poverty lawyers, lawyers who work against capital punishment, immigration lawyers, and other lawyers working to end oppression. Editors Austin Sarat and Stuart Scheingold have assembled here a valuable cross-national portrait of lawyers compelled to sacrifice financial gain so as to use their legal skills in the promotion of a more just society. These telling and important essays fully explore the relationship between cause lawyering and the organized legal professions of many different countries--the US, England, South Africa, Israel, Cuba, and so forth. They describe the utility of law as a resource in political struggles and, conversely, highlight the constraints under which lawyers necessarily operate when they turn to politics. Some provide broad theoretical overviews; others present rich case studies. Advancing a fundamental argument about the very nature of the legal profession, this book explains the strategies that cause lawyers deploy, as well as the challenges they face in trying to be legally astute and effective while remaining politically devoted and aware. Although it is a controversial way of practicing law, cause lawyering, as explicated in the essays in this volume, is indeed indispensable to the legitimization of professional authority.
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