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RebLaw 2014 Panels

Deconstructing the "Baby Veronica" Case: Implications for the Future of the Indian Child Welfare Act

In June 2013, the Supreme Court decided Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a widely publicized case involving the adoption of a Cherokee child by non-Natives over the objections of her Cherokee father. At the heart of the controversy was the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to protect the best interests of Native children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families. This panel will explore the history behind this landmark law, the current landscape of Indian child welfare, and the implications of the "Baby Veronica" decision for the future placement of Native children. Additionally, panelists will discuss how their organizations collaborated with both tribal and non-tribal stakeholders to develop legal, media, and other advocacy strategies for the case as part of the Tribal Supreme Court Project.



Fighting for More Just and Transparent Financial and Extractive Sectors

All too often, Wall Street and Big Oil successfully lobby for the laws they want. These bad laws and policies can have especially tragic consequences on the poor, whether in the US as a result of the financial crisis, or in poorest countries suffering from the so-called "resource curse." To ensure meaningful corporate and government accountability, transparency is a necessary first step. In this panel, leading progressive lawyers will report from the frontlines of the fight for transparency in the extractive and the finance sectors. Highlights of recent successes and challenges include: implementation of US and EU legislation mandating extractive revenue disclosure, calls on companies to disclose resource contracts, shining the light on businesses profiting from conflict and putting an end to secretive shell companies by requiring disclosure of corporate beneficial owners.

Immigration Reform: Executive Action in the Wake of Congressional Inaction

In the absence of congressional action on immigration reform, there has been a growing campaign for executive action to provide legal status to undocumented immigrants in the United States. In 2012, after the U.S. Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act, President Obama issued an executive order to provide Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to individuals who would have been eligible to adjust their status under the DREAM Act. Most recently, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which has been stalled in the House of Representatives. This session will explore questions of separation of powers as well as potential executive action and discretion as it relates to U.S. immigration and deportation policies.


Roper, Graham, Miller: What Now, What Next

The importance of Roper, Graham, and Miller is clear: No longer can juveniles be sentenced to death, life without parole for non-homicide offenses, or mandatory life without parole. And yet people continuously debate the larger impact of these decisions. These successes raise the question: What now? Have lawyers gotten better outcomes for clients not covered under Roper, Graham, or Miller? Have advocates been able to leverage these victories into legislative changes that extend beyond the decisions? Will the next case challenge the constitutionality of trying juveniles in adult courts and sentencing them to prison? And, just as important, have the set-backs in the wake of Miller threatened the prospects for broader change? This panel will attempt to address these questions while offering us insight gained by their considerable work and experience.


Unpaid Labor, Experiential Learning, and Law School: The legal, economic, and policy implications of the unpaid internship critique for law students

While the growth of unpaid work during and immediately after law school is frequently touted as a form of credentialing greenhorn lawyers -- conferring practical skills otherwise left undeveloped in school -- this session locates such "experiential learning" within the broader critique of unpaid internships, exploring legal, policy, and economic implications. The social desirability of mapping this practice onto student pro bono service will also be considered. It will be an interactive session inviting attendees to work through many on-point questions in small groups, based on material distributed at the session.


The Fight to End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in Appalachia


In the 1970s, coal companies seeking more economical coal extraction techniques began to engage in the practice of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining in the coal-rich region of Appalachia. This practice involves using explosives to remove a mountaintop and expose the coal seam beneath. While profitable for coal companies, MTR is also a highly destructive process that causes many environmental and economic problems for people living in the region. This panel will focus on the legal battles to end MTR, highlighting the work of attorney Joe Lovett and his public interest law and policy organization, Appalachian Mountain Advocates. When Mr. Lovett began his practice in 2001, he was the first and only attorney dedicated to ending the practice of MTR. Today, Appalachian Mountain Advocates has grown into one of the most important environmental law organizations in Appalachia, commanding a powerful presence in the region.


Sex Work and the Law: Choice, Circumstance, and Coercion

The initial panel discussion will leave you with many possible answers to these global questions and will equip you with some terminology and background. After the panel, small discussion groups will permit you to engage directly with one panelist. Each speaker will use a short case study to bring to life a real issue or dilemma arising in that panelist's narrower field of action (community mobilization, LGBTQQ, youth, defense work). It should be an opportunity for you to feel inspired by our amazing panelists and to see a few different, real, paths available to someone who aspires to a career in workers' rights and/or human trafficking. This session will also address how other practice areas impact sex workers and should be of interest to anyone who thinks that they might encounter sex workers in future work.


Public Housing and Formerly Incarcerated People: Creatively Using Civil Rights Law to Support Successful Community Organizing

Over the past few decades, an increasing number of families have been barred from public housing or evicted because of a criminal conviction. In low income communities, where over half of families may have a member with a criminal conviction, people have organized to demand that affordable housing be available to all. New Orleans is the most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated nation in the world. This is where two grassroots groups, Stand With Dignity and Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE) led a city-wide campaign to successfully change these policies into a national model. This panel will discuss civil rights law and community-based lawyering.


Perspectives on Education Law Reform


Reducing Gun Violence: Local Approaches

With political will to combat gun violence at the federal level nearly nonexistent, state and city actors have been working to fill the vacuum. This panel will explore some of the recent ways in which local actors have sought to reduce gun violence, including both litigation and legislative reform, and will examine the constitutional and political questions that stem from such efforts. In addition to highlighting the San Francisco City Attorney's suit against gun accessories companies and a gun show promoter for selling disassembled high-capacity magazines in violation of state law, panelists include California Assemblymember Bonta, who was involved with the recent slate of gun control bills vetoed by Governor Brown; Yale Law School Professor Tracey Meares; and a representative from Mayors Against Illegal Guns.


Progressive Action Through Local Governance

Federal and State governments can be difficult places to gain access, are slow moving and often dominated by a conservative politics. Americans’ primary and most frequent interactions with government occur at the municipal level. With these bodies being closest to people, more accessible, and generally left leaning in urban areas, they are fertile ground for progressive legislation that may never have same chance at the state or federal level. This panel explores the municipal-level legislative dynamic by using two Hartford, CT ordinances and their players as a jumping off point: one on immigrants’ rights and one regarding racial profiling. One was successful and one was not. These experiences are a jumping off point for a discussion on best practices, pitfalls, opportunities, limits for municipal law making, municipalities as kernels for broader campaigns and the role of legislative exchanges and model ordinances.


Roots, Shoots, and Buds: Past, Present, and Future Perspectives on the Intersection of Law and Agriculture

Regulatory choices of law and policy profoundly influence our nation's agricultural systems and food culture. The recent upwelling of smaller-scale organic farming and growing awareness of the impact of industrial food systems on the environment and public health have brightly illuminated both winners and losers of the modern regulatory framework. During this panel, our speakers will critically discuss and challenge the current governance structure shaping food and agriculture in the US. We hope participants will walk away with:

Disability Justice: New Approaches to an Age-Old Struggle

This panel brings together leading disability rights advocates from diverse practice areas. Panelists focus on issues from criminal justice to employment to education to housing. They bring experience working with both children and adults and fighting for the rights and dignity of people with mental and physical disabilities. They will discuss their work, current cutting-edge legal issues for people with disabilities, and the relevance of disability rights to social justice lawyering in general.


Radical Activists and the Lawyers Who Defend Them: Animal Rights Case Study

This session will address the relationship between radical activists, the communities they serve, and the legal community, with an emphasis on how attorneys can work with and support those activists and communities, through the lens of the National Lawyers Guild's (NLG) developing relationship with the animal rights movement. The focus is on radical legal culture, rather than litigation, in order to make the point that radical lawyering involves more than merely bringing and defending cases. As the first integrated bar association, the NLG has long been at the forefront of expanding its vision of radical lawyering and social justice. Yet, it has at times also struggled to figure out how to build that expanded radical vision into the structure of the larger organization when legal culture champions cases over structural change. The panel will also address the ethical issues that accompany offering legal support to an activist community in which the lawyer is involved, as well as how to provide meaningful and respectful support to activist communities to which a lawyer does not belong. The panel will also discuss what it means to be an animal rights activist and about the experience of dealing with repression and legal consequences of such activism, and of working with attorneys when confronted by such repression.


Law, Organizing & Economic Justice: Mobilizing Communities in Crisis

Fifty years after the March on Washington, economic justice remains--in the words of President Obama--"our great unfinished business." This roundtable-style discussion will explore the roles of social justice lawyering, organizing, and policy in the continuing struggle for economic opportunity in communities of color. Featuring social justice legal practitioners and organizers from both in and outside of New Haven, this session will explore the particular barriers to economic justice faced by people of color and generate discussion around effective lawyering and advocacy models. Along with thinking about these issues broadly, we will focus on the roles of economic justice lawyering, organizing, and advocacy in our own communities and discuss potential avenues for meaningful change.


Money in Politics: Equality and Elections in the Era of Super PACS

Our campaign finance system is undoubtedly broken. In the wake of Citizens United, money floods our election cycles with little disclosure or regulation. This panel will consider how efforts to undermine limits on campaign spending have changed our elections, and explore ways to resist the tide of money and its potentially corrupting effects .


Grassroots Organizing in Reproductive Justice

Fighting for Wendy Davis in Texas. Defeating one of the first local abortion bans in the country. Empowering Southern women of color to develop their own reproductive justice movement. Running a national social media campaign to educate young people about women's health policy. Mobilizing law students around the country to develop legal expertise around reproductive justice. These are just some of things our panelists did in 2013; 2014 is looking even brighter.

Forty-one years after Roe, advocates are still fighting to keep reproductive health decisions between patients and their doctors. In 2013 alone, 39 states enacted 141 provisions related to reproductive health and rights -- half of which restricted abortion. While national organizations like Planned Parenthood most often make the news, grassroots organizers truly fuel changes in law and policy around women's health. Our panelists will discuss their successes, their struggles, and their advice around grassroots organizing in reproductive justice.


Feminist Resistance to the Drug War

In this session we will explore the ways in which the U.S. drug war is a distinctly feminist issue, and the unique perspectives and strategies feminists bring to anti-drug war resistance. Our speakers will also discuss the skills they feel have prepared them to contribute to the movement, providing students with concrete ideas for effective organizing and legal education.