Election Law Open Class November 9, 2016: Post-Election Discussion

The following video is from my Election Law and Policy class meeting on November 9, 2016. I opened the class to an extended question and answer session to address the aftermath of the presidential election. It was open to the community at the West Virginia University College of Law and to my social media networks. To date, it has received nearly 1,000 views.

The discussion covered topics including the pros and cons of the Electoral College, the challenges the political system continues to face after this election, and the possibilities and limits of the rule of law in the Trump era. Probably the highlight of this discussion is the discussion between two of my students – a white male and a African American female – about her feelings of racial threat in this “era of Trump” and his view that the rule of law will be sufficient to protect her and other minorities.

The discussion is provocative, informative, and a useful tool for reflecting on the election.  And to the extent you found this discussion useful, please let me know, and let me know whether you’d like more live chats and/or podcasts facilitated by me to have more conversations in this new political era.

Diversity Week Events at WVU

This edition of “Keeping Up with Atiba” highlights my participation in West Virginia University Diversity Week Events. The entire schedule is available online, and my speaking roles are listed below.

Concerned Latinx Students: Suggesting Solutions

Monday, October 10 at 5:30 pm
Rhododendron Room, Mountainlair
Recently, an open letter to President Gee from a Latinx student went viral. The letter detailed the harassment and issues a Latinx freshman faced in their first weeks at WVU. Culturas WVU is taking this letter as a call to action, to find what institutional changes need to take place at WVU to better support underrepresented students. Join us and discuss what issues you see, and what solutions you might suggest.

In particular, I hope to stress my ideas for institutional change in light of my experiences as a faculty member (and the reflections of students and colleagues I know). More importantly, I hope to be an ally to the Latinx community and learn from their views about the environment at WVU.

Voices Behind the Bars

Monday, October 10 at 7 pm
Room 154
This event, hosted by the West Virginia College of Law, is a dramatic reading of four stories from Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption followed by discussion. The program is part of WVU’s 2016-17 Campus Read of Just Mercy, in which just-mercyStevenson explores the moral implications of the American justice system.

The readers for “Voices Behind the Bars” will be graduate fellows Imani Berry, Oluremi Famodu, Quinn Jones and Phillip Zapkin with honors student Emma Harrison and first-year law student Stephen Scott.

Following each reading, there will be a discussion of race and wrongful incarceration, mental illness, gender and incarcerated minors. The conversation will be led by WVU law professors Valena Beety, Atiba Ellis and Kirsha Trychta, and attorney Aaron Moss, a 2015 WVU Law graduate who is working on prison reform.

In particular, I will be discussing how race frames and connects numerous issues in relation to the criminal justice system. I will emphasize on how recent shootings of persons of color, legal limitations regarding criminal procedure, and the collateral consequences of convictions are part of the larger problems of structural racism.

White Privilege

Wednesday, October 12 at 7:00 pm
Ballrooms, Mountainlair
This talk will be led by Brandon Webb and Speak Out, Reach Out leadership members, discussing what White privilege is in general and how it plays out on campus. Professor Atiba Ellis of the WVU College of Law will discuss voting rights suppression and how White privilege is perpetuating this.

In particular, I hope to discuss the problem of white privilege from two perspectives sparked by this political season. First, I will discuss the political rhetoric of this campaign season and how it reveals the enduring and evolving ideology of white supremacy in the twenty-first century despite claims of a post-racial turn American political discourse. Second, I will discuss how this same ideology influences the structure of the law of the political process as revealed by the recent race-based controversies in voting rights.

The Link to the National Constitution Center Debate on Voter Identification Laws

I want to thank the Center, the Federalist Society, the American Constitution Society, and all those involved in putting this event together. I have some thoughts about the substance of this debate that I will share soon, so stay tuned for further follow ups from the debate. You can watch the debate below or directly on YouTube.

National Constitution Society Debate

This special edition of Keeping Up With Atiba provides the details for my debate with Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation. The debate held at the Chicago Cultural Center on Wednesday (from 6:00 to 8:00 PM Central Time) will consider the constitutional case debate posterfor and against state voter identification laws. The debate is being sponsored by the National Constitution Center, the Federalist Society, and the American Constitution Society.

Voter identification laws, particularly those that strictly enforce a requirement that a voter use their government-issued photo ID as the near exclusive means of identifying oneself to register and to vote, have been controversial since they were first introduced over a decade years ago. While proponents of these laws argue that they are necessary to insure the integrity of elections and prevent voter fraud, opponents of voter identification laws argue that they unduly and unconstitutionally burden the right to vote. And while the Supreme Court has upheld Indiana’s voter identification laws as facially neutral, litigation regarding these laws continues under both the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The question of the ultimate impact these laws have on poor, elderly, and minority voters (and the constitutional import of that impact) continues to be litigated.

If you are going to be in the Chicago area on Wednesday, you can attend the event by registering here. If you cannot attend the live event, you can watch the archived recording on the National Constitution Center website. It should be available the next day, and I will put up the link as soon as it is available.


Keeping Up With Atiba: Late September & Early October Edition

Welcome to the first installment of “Keeping Up With Atiba.” At the start of each month, and periodically to highlight special events, I will post an update on all my ongoing projects, publications, and speaking engagements.

Current and Upcoming Speaking Engagements

In addition to my activities at John Marshall Law School now and this weekend, I will be leading an audience discussion after the Sunday, October 2 2:00 p.m. matinee performance of David Mamet’s Race at West Virginia University (see below for details) and participating in a National Constitution Center Debate on voting rights in Chicago on October 5 at 6 p.m, which will be open to the public. (stay tuned for an upcoming post detailing this event).

Breaking-In and Staying-In the Law School Community, Chicago

I participated in this program at John Marshall Law School, sponsored by the Society of American Law Teachers. It was designed to give perspective for students and attorneys who are contemplating entering into teaching, whether as a full-time faculty member, an adjunct, or an administrator. You can check out my tweets from the meeting here.

SALT/LatCrit Junior Faculty Development Workshop, Chicago

September 28, 2016
John Marshall Law School, Chicago, IL

Yesterday I participated with Professor Melinda Molina of Capital Law School (Columbus, OH) in a discussion of tips for success for recently hired full-time faculty members at law schools. This was part of the Faculty Development Workshop sponsored by the Society of American Law Teachers and the Latino and Latina Critical Legal Theory, Inc. organizations. The workshop itself is designed to help persons who are interested in interviewing for full-time faculty positions as well as persons who are in the probationary (e.g., pre-tenure) phase of their full-time faculty positions. The workshop focused on how to thrive and survive while developing a critical and progressive agenda. It in particular is designed to support a diversity of persons and perspectives in the legal academy.

Society of American Law Teachers Teaching Conference, Chicago

September 29 – October 1
John Marshall Law School, Chicago, IL

I will be attending this conference this weekend, I hope you will be able to attend one of my talks. I have the pleasure of speaking on two panels this year. The details are below.

Social Media as a Platform for Critical and Progressive Teaching, Praxis and Activism
Friday, September 30, 1:00 p.m. – 2:10 p.m
Room: P-300

Atiba Ellis, West Virginia University College of Law
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law
Saru Matambanadzo, Tulane University School of Law
Jorge Roig, Charleston School of Law

The roundtable discussion will focus on various approaches and strategies to use the various platforms on social media to foster discussion, community, and action regarding progressive legal and social causes. The group includes a number of professors who have used various approaches (e.g., blogging, Facebook, and Twitter) to help forward important critical theory debates. We have, in various ways, also used the platforms for teaching and research.

In particular, I will discuss my experiences as a co-editor of the Race Law Prof Blog and my efforts at fostering dialogue through both the shared platform of Race Law Prof as well as my own personal social media platforms. I will also likely discuss this very blog as the newest phase of my social media efforts.

Teaching Social Justice By Not Talking About It
Saturday, October 1, 9:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.
Room: S-528

Deirdre M. Bowen, Seattle University School of Law
Colin Crawford, Tulane University Law School
Atiba R. Ellis, West Virginia University College of Law
Becky L. Jacobs, University of Tennessee College of Law

This panel proceeds from a worry that we share as law professors on the political left. Specifically, we worry that the use of phrases like “social justice” and explicit endorsements of this and similar ideas may, in the classroom, alienate large swaths of the students whose sympathies lie somewhere more to the right on the political spectrum. Therefore, we suggest faculty consider adopting tactics and strategies that force students to examine critically the effect of different policies, doctrines and legal responses, prodding them to think about the kind of society they—and we—want rather than characterizing it for them. To that end, in this panel we will outline methods we have used in various doctrinal classes, from property and constitutional law to family and private international law.

I specifically will be talking about the methods of confronting legal structure and its effects within the context of asking students to use their own experiences and knowledge to make concrete the explicit and implicit barriers to participation within both the Trusts and Estates context and the Voting Rights context.

Post-Performance Audience discussion of David Mamet’s Race

mamet-race Sunday, October 2, 2:00 p.m.
Creative Arts Center’s Gladys Davis Theatre, West Virginia University
Tickets are available on ticketmaster.com, by calling 304-293-SHOW, or by visiting the CAC or Mountainlair Box Offices.

Below is the description of the play’s post-show discussion series of which I am a part. The performance is sure to inspire a lively discussion and I hope to see many of my WVU friends and colleagues there on Sunday afternoon.

Join the School of Theatre and Dance for a post-show discussion of Race a play by David Mamet. These discussions will feature a panel made up of the production’s director, cast members, as well as representatives from the School of Law, English Department, Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, School of Social Work, and the Black Graduate Student Association. This panel of experts on race relations within our society will continue a conversation on the issues within the play, and how they tie into currents events across the country. Race was produced on Broadway in 2009 to critical acclaim and controversy; the playwright Mamet states, his “intended theme is Race and the lies we tell each other on the subject.” We welcome our audience to participate in an open dialogue about race relations, cultural bias, and the subsequent affects that they have on justice, truth, and alleged criminal acts. The running time of the play is approximately 80 minutes, immediately followed by comments from the panel and questions from the audience to open up further discussion. The Play runs September 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30 at 7:30 and Sunday Matinees on 9/25 and 10/2 at 2:00, and the special panel discussions will be held after the performance on the 29th and the 2nd. The play is performed in the Creative Arts Center’s Gladys Davis Theatre.

Recent Speaking Engagements

Race, Racism and American Law Manuscript Conference

I just returned from the Race, Racism and American Law Manuscript Conference at UCLA. This event is part of the project to revision Derrick Bell’s foundational textbook, Race, Racism and American Law, for the 21st Century. Four colleagues (Audrey McFarlane, Erika Wilson, Ian Haney-López, and Russell Robinson) and I spoke at the opening reception with one of the textbook’s co-authors, Cheryl I. Harris. The event is best summarized in the formal description:

Derrick Bell’s Seminal textbook, Race, Racism and American Law, first issued in 1972, was a groundbreaking intervention that challenged the dominant view of legal pedagogy as a race-neutral process and product. Unlike other casebooks that adopted “perspectivelessness” as the mark of objectivity, Bell pursued a complex, more accurate vision, rooted in history and inspired by a black radical tradition. Its impact was felt throughout the legal academy and resonates still.

I am honored to be part of this project, and the next day I also had the privilege to speak (along with Guy Uriel-Charles of Duke University) about how to re-envision Bell’s chapter on Voting Rights and Democratic Domination. Specifically, I spoke about how the chapter’s focus on “majoritarian domination” ought to be expanded to include considerations of modern post-Shelby County strategies of voter suppression, and of the ideological drivers of these laws (which I discuss in my paper, “The Meme of Voter Fraud”).