Keeping Up with Atiba: February Edition

Spring Semester: Sabbatical!

For this post, I want to announce my latest endeavor—sabbatical!

I am on leave from the West Virginia University College of Law this semester, and though I’ve been traveling last month, I am now living Durham, NC for the rest of the semester.

Specifically, I am spending this semester as a visiting scholar at the Duke University School of Law. I will use this time to work on a number of projects, including
sabbatical-sign

  • starting a long-term project on the theory (-ies) regarding race conscious remedies in modern civil rights law and their interrelationship with American democracy;
  • starting a project to amplify public engagement by law professors in this important time for issues of constitutional and civil rights law; and

I am appreciative to Duke Law, and in particular, Dean David Levi, Associate Dean for Faculty and Research Guy-Uriel Charles, Academic Affairs Assistant Elizabeth Brooks, and the staff of the Law School and the J. Michael Goodson Law Library for accommodating me.

My office is cozy but useful. And in case you’re worried that I’m off and about without supervision, know that I’ll be under the watchful eye of President Richard Nixon (or at least his portrait).

painting of Richard Nixon hung on the wall outside Atiba Ellis's research carrel

Summer & Fall: Conferences and A Visiting Professorship

As you can see, I’ll be busy in Durham this spring (when not watching basketball!). As publishable products from these projects emerge, I will share them here. And to the extent I have additional engagements on voting rights issues, race and the law issues, and other matters of general interest, I’ll share them here too. So, stay tuned.

One last note: planning for my summer and fall has already started. I’m looking ahead to several conferences this summer and fall (including the Law & Society International Meeting; the Southeastern Association of Law Schools 2017 annual meeting, and LatCrit 2017).

Most important—this fall of 2017 I will be the Boden Visiting Professor of Law at the Marquette University School of Law. This will offer further opportunities for public engagement and teaching that you may find interesting. More on this later.

Keeping Up With Atiba: MAPOC Edition

I am presenting today and tomorrow at the twenty-second Mid-Atlantic People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference. It is being held at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, DC, and the theme of the conference is “Legal and Political Change During the Obama Era.”

Today at 2:00 PM, I commented on a work-in-progress by Professor Khaled Beyhoun of the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law. His work is entitled “Acting Muslim.”  Professor Beyhoun already has a tremendous national and international profile as an expert commentator on Islamophobia, critical theory, and religious freedom. His work in progress promises to be a substantial contribution to the literature on the intersectional nature of racialized religious discrimination, and an important intellectual and litigation tool in the post-Obama era.

Trump tweet on investigating voter fraud

Tomorrow at 3:15 PM, I will be speaking on the fourth and final plenary panel of the conference, “Election 2016: Revelation sand Responses.” I will address what has become an extremely timely topic, “Voter Fraud as Nemesis: Fragility, Distortion, and the 2016 Election.” In this talk, I will discuss the President’s ongoing propaganda campaign asserting the existence of voter fraud by “illegal” voters (notwithstanding any evidence to support his claims) and its interrelationship with the identity politics of post-racialism. This, read through the larger dynamic of voter suppression illustrated by recent voter identification cases like NAACP v. McCrory and Veasey v. Abbott, illustrates a new era of racialized and class-focused political domination. Like others who have commented on Trump’s motives and the endgame of these voter fraud claims, e.g., Professor Erika Wilson’s commentary in yesterday’s Washington Post, I will draw out how this narrative serves to enable voter suppression.  However, unlike other recent commentators, I will frame this discussion through the lens of meme theory (an approach I developed in my paper, The Meme of Voter Fraud), to further develop an account of the intersectional nature of this deployment of the voter fraud meme in the post-Shelby County era of voting rights recalibration.

Keeping Up With Atiba: New Years Edition

Happy New Year, and welcome to the first Keeping Up With Atiba installment of 2017! This month I am presenting at two conferences, and I hope you will be able to join me.

Association of American Law Schools (AALS)

This weekend I will be moderating the Minority Groups section’s panel, “Presidential Politics and the Future of the Supreme Court: Post-Election Reflections and Forecasts for the ‘Post-Racial’ Post-Obama White House” (Co-Sponsored by Constitutional Law & Election Law). This promises to be a lively and important discussion. aals-meeting-2017

Description
The 2016 presidential campaign has been characterized as one of the most contentious and surprising in history. This program explores how the landscape of presidential politics has uncovered deep divides among the American population. According to some, the gender, class, and racial representation of the presidential candidates added multidimensional complexity to the task of deciphering the contemporary effects of this divisiveness. The long battle to the White House has ignited heated national conversations on race, immigration, and counterterrorism policy, as well as debates on gun, voting, and reproductive rights. Moreover, Justice Scalia’s death at the height of the campaign season opened the door to an examination of the role of campaign and identity politics in the Supreme Court nomination process. Distinguished experts on race and the law, election law, national security, constitutional law, and immigration, among other areas, offer their reflections on the 2016 presidential election and the new administration, particularly Supreme Court nomination process and what we might expect (or hope for) under the new administration.

Location
Saturday, January 7, 10:30 am – 12:15 pm
Hilton San Francisco Union Square
Continental Ballroom 6, Ballroom Level, Hilton

Speakers
Jennifer M. Chacon, University of California, Irvine School of Law
Guy-Uriel E. Charles, Duke University School of Law
Bertrall Ross, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
Shirin Sinnar, Stanford Law School
Franita Tolson, Florida State University College of Law

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

For the second year in a row, I will participate in Washington and Lee University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events. I will be part of a panel on voting rights entitled “The 2016 Presidential Election: Voting Rights in a ‘Post-Racial’/’Post-Civil Rights’ Era.”

Location
Monday, January 16, 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Millhiser Moot Courtroom, Washington and Lee University School of Law

Speakers
Chris Seaman (Moderator), Associate Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law
Atiba Ellis, Professor of Law, West Virginia University College of Law
Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, Professor of Law and Harry T. Ice Faculty Fellow, Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Mark Rush, Director of International Education and Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law

Mid-Atlantic People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference (MAPOC)

Later this month I will participate in this year’s MAPOC conference “Legal and Political Change During the Obama Era.” I will speak as part of the panel “Election 2016: Revelations and Responses” where I am looking MAPOC Convention graphic of Obamaforward to reflecting on the open, online class discussion I held at West Virginia University the day
after the the presidential
election.

Location
Saturday, January 28, 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
The George Washington University Law School, Washington DC

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.