Event Information
2010 Mid-Year Meeting
Date: June 8 — 12, 2010
Location: Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers

The AALS Mid-Year Meeting consists of three professional development programs: Workshop on “Post Racial” Civil Rights Law, Politics and Legal Education: New and Old Color Lines in the Age of Obama, followed by the simultaneous Workshop on Civil Procedure and Workshop on Property. 

Workshop on "Post Racial" Civil Rights Law, Politics and Legal Education: New and Old Color Lines in the Age of Obama

-Click here to view Race and Law Workbooklet-
Supported in part by a grant from the Law School Admission Council
Why Attend?  When Du Bois wrote in 1903 that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line," he was reflecting on momentous changes over the previous decades. For Du Bois, the turn of the century offered an opportunity to take stock of race, to gauge its recent past and predict its immediate future. The turn of the millennium offers us a similar backward- and forward-looking opportunity. Thus this AALS workshop on race and the law.

Entitled “Post Racial” Civil Rights law, Politics and Legal Education: New and Old Color Lines in the Age of Obama” (hereafter “Post Racial Civil Rights”), the aim of this workshop, broadly framed, is to mark three significant post civil rights changes to the American racial landscape and to explore the implications of those changes for the future of racial justice advocacy, organization, litigation and legal education. As will become clear, while the three developments we have in mind are not exhaustive of the shifts in U.S. racial dynamics post Brown v. Board of Education and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, each raises profound questions about the direction and substantive content of civil rights reform in the decades to come.

 Change I: The installation of colorblindness as both the normative backdrop against which race is publicly discussed and a formal legal technique to adjudicate civil rights cases. This installation produces racial denials (of racism), racial prohibitions (of racial consciousness) and racial elisions (of existing racial inequalities). Colorblindness has simultaneously undermined the emancipatory potential of civil rights law and made conversations about racial justice in civic and political arenas virtually impossible. At the same time, colorblindness has enabled and legitimized a discourse of cultural difference and social responsibility that now serves as the principal explanation of and justification for existing racial hierarchies.


Change II: The shift in America’s racial demographics from a majority white nation to a majority-minority nation. There are two significant features of this shift. First, no single racially-defined group represents a majority of the population; and, second, Latinos constitute the new majority-minority. By the year 2000, these patterns were firmly established in California; they now exist in numerous other states, and many of the nation's major cities, as well.


Change III: The momentous election of Barack Obama as the first Black President of the United States. When Obama announced his decision to run for the United States presidency, few people thought he would win the democratic nomination, let alone the White House. But win the White House is precisely what he did, changing the face of American politics in the process and facilitating the introduction of a new term in our ever-shifting racial vocabulary: post racialism. Exactly what this term will come to mean is anybody’s guess. What is clear is that post racialism has already begun to operate as “replacement labor” for the ideological work that colorblindness has traditionally performed.


Organized over three days, the Post Racial Civil Rights Workshop will examine what the foregoing developments portend for civil rights legal practice, education and political reform. An informal reception opens the workshop on the evening of Tuesday, June 8. The substantive sessions will begin on Wednesday, June 9, with a plenary focused the role law plays in reproducing inequality, even and perhaps especially when no formal “racial classifications” are involved. Entitled “The Legal (Re)production of Inequality,” the plenary will demonstrate some of the distinctive mechanisms through which law reproduces racial inequality in areas including: criminal justice, healthcare, housing, education, employment, immigration, and constitutional law. Small group informal breakout sessions will follow the plenary, but remain in the plenary room, forming small groups based on where they are seated and engaging the members of their group for 30 minutes around the themes the plenary presented. Group participants will then have the opportunity to draw on their group discussions to direct questions at the plenary speakers.


Lunch then follows and will feature a keynote presentation. A second plenary will launch the afternoon sessions, this one devoted to “New Paradigms of Racialization.” As mentioned above, the United States has shifted from a majority white nation to a nation within which (1) no single racial group constitutes a racial majority, (2) people of color outnumber whites, and (3) Latinos are the new minority majority. This plenary panel will explore whether these demographic changes—and social response to them—reflect new paradigms of racialization. How should we now count race? What are the frames in which we now talk about race? And what are the intersectional implications of these shifts in demographics and discourse? How do they affect our conception of whiteness? Do they have implications for relations of intimacy—shaping perceptions about childbearing and child care, or the social expression of sexuality? How do these new forms of racialization shape claims about citizenship and security, immigration and sovereignty? Staying with this theme, the second afternoon session will feature a choice among several concurrent sessions, including sessions on the census, immigration and profiling, sovereignty, race and dependency and race, family and sexuality.


The second day of the workshop, Thursday, June 9, will open with the plenary, “Race Across the Curriculum and Law School: Race Law 101 and Beyond.” This plenary will focus on race, legal education and law school environment. Senior, mid-level and junior professors will discuss not only the substantive content on the basic race law course, but also how if, at all, that course does or should differ from a course in critical race theory. The panelists will also consider whether identity specific courses, such as Latinos and the Law and Asian American Jurisprudence, enhance or diminish a multiracial approach to civil rights reform. Finally, because race is endogenous (and not just exogenous) to legal environments, the plenary will consider some of the ways in which—outside of the classroom—race shapes and is itself shaped by the institutional culture and life of law schools. To permit further discussion of these issues, the plenary will be followed by small group breakout sessions that, in addition to continuing the discussion of the law school environment and race-specific courses, will examine how to incorporate race into non-traditional race law classes, such as tax and the basic first year curriculum.


Lunch then follows with a keynote presentation on the Obama Administration and Civil Rights. The afternoon sessions will turn to solutions. The discussion will begin with the plenary, “Interventions: The Possibilities and Limitations of Law.” As the title suggests, this plenary will examine whether law remains a productive vehicle with which to achieve racial reform. From antidiscrimination law to immigration law to human rights to housing and criminal justice reforms, the panelists will explore the possibilities and limitations of law—working alongside large and small scale political organizing—to effectuate progressive racial change.


The day ends with another plenary, this one structured in the form of a roundtable to maximize audience participation. Entitled, “The Future of Race, Law and Civil Rights: Asking and Answering the Hard Questions,” this plenary will press the panelists to consider some of the most difficult and controversial questions about the future of race, law and civil rights. Some of the questions will explicitly draw from, though they will not be exhausted by, the themes around which the preceding plenaries are organized. Is Obama’s presidency likely to be more symbolic than substantive? Are there progressive terms upon which assimilationist projects can be articulated? Should whiteness be more explicitly engaged in our public and political discourses about race? How should we theorize the notion of a black/white binary? Has civil rights advocacy failed meaningfully to engage class? How, if at all, should arguments based on hierarchies of oppression figure in civil rights advocacy? To what extent should our racial engagements be more globally-centered? What is the role of international law in domestic civil rights reform? These are some of the questions this plenary will take up.


Who Should Attend? This workshop has been planned for (1) anyone interested in post civil rights changes to the American racial landscape and the implications of those changes for the future of racial justice advocacy, organization, litigation and legal education, (2) scholars and teachers in the field of race and the law and anti-discrimination law, including but not limited to those who write about or teach courses in constitutional law, employment discrimination, women and the law, sexual orientation and the law and feminist jurisprudence, and (3) law professors who teach courses that are not explicitly marked in terms of race and are interested in developing new and exciting ways to incorporate race into their courses.


Workshop on Civil Procedure: Charting Your Course in a Shifting Field
-Click here to view Civil Procedure Workbooklet-
Why Attend?  Civil Procedure is a shifting field, requiring mastery of a rapidly changing subject.  A new approach to pleading, elaborate litigation financing mechanisms, expanding frontiers in preclusion law, and an increasingly detailed awareness of the landscape of civil litigation all present difficult challenges to teacher and scholar alike.  This workshop will address these important issues.  It will also focus on three central pedagogical challenges:  teaching the hardest cases, incorporating innovative and varied classroom methodologies, and constructing a successful course in fewer credit hours.  Our speakers will include established scholars and newer voices.  The program is designed to benefit Civil Procedure teachers and scholars at all levels of experience.


Who Should Attend? Teachers of civil procedure and litigation will find this workshop of interest.


Workshop on Property
-Click here to view Workshop on Property Workbooklet-

Why Attend? Two major crises in the last few years have exposed deep tensions and pressures on our understanding of property law.  The foreclosure of more than 2 million homes, and the anticipated default of another 6 million mortgages has shaken common notions about the ability of consumers to understand real estate transactions and the terms of their mortgage contracts, posed stark questions about the failure of the law to limit the ability of the market to produce property transactions that created significant principal/agent costs, moral hazards, and externalities, and presented challenging questions about racial disparities in access to prime credit and in the underwriting of troublesome new mortgage products.  Similarly, vigorous debates over the responsibility of industrialized countries to control global warming, the need to protect future generations from the effects of global warming, and the fair allocation of the burdens of reducing greenhouse gases similarly have posed challenging questions about the regulation of risk from activities on private property, the nature of property owners’ obligations to future generations, and the failure of regulation to control externalities from the use of property.  Both crises raise serious theoretical and practical challenges to traditional notions about the comparative advantages of the free market, our ability to craft property laws that limit systematic risk without unduly discouraging innovation, and the continuing inability of the law to prevent racial discrimination, exclusion and exploitation. 


The crises also have shown that property conundrums are hardest when they fall at the intersections of state and federal law; constitutional, statutory, regulatory and common law; and substantive environmental, international, financial instruments and risk regulation fields.  Property law professors increasingly must come to terms with these intersections as they struggle to distinguish property from other subjects.  At the same time, property law professors must master and incorporate into their scholarship and teaching the considerable insights normative theory, theories about race, gender and inequality, and scholarship on law and economics (especially behavioral law and economics) and political economy provide about property.  


To address these issues, the Workshop will begin substantively on Friday, June 11th with an opening plenary focused on identifying the core of property that must be taught in the introductory property course.  As the credits allotted to introductory property courses shrink in schools across the country, but as the crises of the last few years show just how fundamental property law is to our legal and financial systems, senior, mid-level, and junior professors will debate what is critical to include in the basic property course.  A second plenary will launch sessions on the mortgage and housing crises, focusing first on “Property in Dangerous Packages: Subprime and Skin in the Game.”   The luncheon keynote will feature a discussion of federal efforts to address the need for reform in the regulation of the financial and mortgage sectors.  


The afternoon sessions will then feature breakout sessions on what behavioral law and economics tells us about the mortgage crisis; what norms underpin the mortgage crisis;  what the crisis tells us about the regulation of risk; and what we can learn about and from the political economy of homeownership.    We will then reconvene in a third plenary session to talk about inequality and the subprime market. 


The morning of Saturday, June 12th will feature breakout sessions organized around works in progress selected through a request for proposals.   A fourth plenary session will then focus on what the global warming crisis tells us about property law.  Breakout sessions will follow, again to allow examination of the global warming crisis through the perspective of various normative theories and theories of equality and fairness, as well as from a political economy and risk regulation vantage point.   The day will end with very early works in progress roundtables, at which scholars with very preliminary ideas will be given ten minutes to outline their ideas and receive feedback on the viability of the topic.


Who Should Attend? This workshop should be of interest to teachers of Property Law, Real Estate Transactions, Land Use Law, Environmental Law, Natural Resources, Indian Nations and Indigenous Peoples, Regulation, Financial Instruments, and Law and Economics.  The workshop is designed to benefit property law teachers at all levels of experience.  Our speakers and group leaders will include many of the most prominent and established people in the field, and also a substantial number of newer voices.