Keynote Speakers

Panels, Workshops, and Readings

The Fight Against Mass Incarceration
Attendees will learn about how the prison system oppresses not just the people who are locked up but also hurts families, communities and our entire society. While most people go to law school thinking of litigation as the sole solution to social problems, we'll use stories of the struggle against mass incarceration to spark long-term discussions about how law school's unique training is also great training for policy work. Session Organizers: Amanda Alexander, Bruce Reilly, Peter Wagner.

In the Wake of an Immigration “Crisis”: The Future of Legal Protections for Trafficking Victims and Unaccompanied Minors
The panel will bring together practitioners and academics working on different aspects of human trafficking and asylum law. In the wake of last summer's so-called "immigration crisis," this panel seeks to examine the linkages between the TVPRA and legal protections for unaccompanied minors. How do we ensure that protections are not rolled back? What steps might be taken to preserve the humanitarian rationale behind the TVPRA? Session Organizers: Tal Eisenzweig, John Giammatteo.

Three Perspectives on Transgender Activism and Legal Advocacy
This session will consist of three workshops led by Tey, Asaf, and Dru, after brief introductory remarks by each of the panelists. The workshops will lead participants in examining the role of social activism in transgender legal rights, intersections of race and class in queer and transgender rights, litigation strategies for transgender prison and employment rights, and lessons on impact litigation from a national expert on transgender youth advocacy. We will come together at the end of the session to share overarching ideas, themes, and strategies relevant to the transgender rights movement. Session Organizers: Helen Diagama, Xiaonan Hu, Yusuf Saei, Rachel Tuchman.

Who Needs the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)?
The administrative regime that oversees labor relations in the US has often proven insufficient to address the needs of workers’ organizing. In some cases this is a result of intentional statutory omission; in others, such as domestic work, the NLRB is ill-suited to address the particular structure of labor. This panel explores the range of labor organizing and legal work that takes place up against, and outside of, the bounds of traditional administrative labor law—with particular focuses on domestic, agricultural, and service work. Session Organizers: Will Bloom, Jordan Laris Cohen.

Young Lawyers Improving the Food System
Food is a universal human experience; we all have to eat, and food ties together our families, communities, and cultures. Yet our current methods of producing, distributing, and consuming food are unsustainable, both for human health and for the planet. A new generation of lawyers is making the connections between social justice, environmental advocacy, and public health and in turn is bringing fresh ideas to the field, redefining what it means to be a “food lawyer.” Using the community lawyering model, many food lawyers are responding to their clients’ needs, providing legal and policy assistance to community-based groups and individuals to help them to make the changes they most want to see in their community’s food system. Our panel will discuss their diverse and important work, their progress and continued challenges, and advise student attendees on how to make an impact and build a career in this burgeoning field. Session Organizers: Ona Balkus, Emily Broad Leib.

Barriers to Representation: Defending Out of Reach Clients
The right to counsel is a constitutional right guaranteed in the Sixth Amendment. However, lawyers have often found themselves in positions where they cannot access their clients. From placing terror suspects in extraterritorial prisons with little to no counsel access (Guantanamo and Bagram), to relocating immigrants to detention centers in far away states, to holding certain classes of criminal defendants under highly restrictive "Special Administrative Measures," federal and state governments have imposed conditions that (sometimes purposively) hinder counsel access to clients. This panel examines how lawyers overcome government-imposed barriers to representation. What are the unique challenges of representing a client who is held in conditions that isolates him from the protections of the law? The panelists will also grapple with the ethical dilemmas that they face when trying to represent out of reach clients. How do you ensure you are faithfully following your client's wishes, when you cannot communicate with her? Session Organizer: Tasnim Motala.

Beyond Boundaries: How Lawyers, Activists, and Communities Can Effectively Create Social Change Together
The session will focus on different approaches, perspectives, and strategies used by “community lawyers” in collaboration with activists to challenge both current struggles faced by disadvantaged communities/groups and the traditional boundaries of legal services. Depending on their experience and knowledge of various forms of “rebellious lawyering,” attendees will be introduced to and/or evaluate the different ways that lawyers can avoid “contribut[ing] to the very subordination [they] purport to remedy,” and instead collaboratively, organically, and genuinely engage with social movements. We envision this session to be a laboratory space in which progressive lawyers, activists, and law students can explore and learn from each other about how to bridge the gap between “lawyering” and “activism.” Session Organizers: Sharlyn Grace, Lam Nguyen Ho.

Defending Democracy: The Fight Against America’s Voter ID Laws
The last five years have seen several states adopt voter identification laws. Advocates across the nation have pointed to the disenfranchisement that results from such laws; they have begun the fight to repeal them in state legislatures and strike them down in courtrooms. What has been the impact of these laws on voter turnout in the past few elections, and what can we expect in the future? How do we prevent voter ID laws in states that don't yet have them, and how do we counteract their deleterious effects in states that do? Session Organizers: Jason Berkenfeld, Urja Mittal.

Domestic Violence Against Women: An Epidemic?
This panel discussion intends to bring to the surface issues of physical, emotional, psychological, and financial violence against women around the world. What is the impact of domestic violence on women’s health? What is the correlation between domestic violence and the overall well being of the population in different societies? What have public health entities done to remedy and prevent it? Could domestic violence be considered an epidemic? Is there international responsibility from states? The panelists, experts in public health, human rights, and women’s rights in the Americas and regions of Africa, will answer those questions and more. Session Organizer: Karina Rangel.

Native Peacemaking: A Traditional Approach to Conflict Resolution
Peacemaking is a traditional Native approach to resolving conflict that focuses on healing and restoration rather than punishment. Although peacemaking varies across tribes, it generally brings together the disputants, along with family members, friends, and other members of the community to speak about how the event, crime, or crisis affected each person. Panelists will discuss the goals of peacemaking and how tribal courts are using this strategy to tackle Indian justice issues. Session Organizers: Lynsey Gaudioso, Katie Jones, Rebecca Loomis.

Work Less, Play More: Progressive Policies for the Workplace
This panel will provide historical and practitioner perspectives on work-life balance in this country and delve into the important question of how we might go about, as lawyers and as individuals, achieving a more sustainable work-life balance today. Session Organizer: Chelsea Lane-Miller.

The Residue Years: A Discussion of the War on Drugs and Literature with Mitchell S. Jackson
Since before Upton Sinclair published The Jungle in 1906, it has been the writer who truly explores how pernicious and unjust policies operate on the lives and psyches of people. A review in Portland Magazine called Jackson’s The Residue Years a chronicle of "the decline of one drug-ravaged Portland family in the ’90s.” However, it’s more than that. This reading and discussion will explore two things: (1) the way Jackson’s novel complicates our understanding of the war on drugs and (2) the degree, if any, that reform efforts lose sight of the lives of the very people they're targeted to help. Session Organizer: Dwayne Betts.

Selective Surveillance and Discriminatory Policing: The Impact of Novel Surveillance Technologies in the “War on Terror” and “War on Drugs”
The American surveillance state is rapidly expanding. Domestic law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the DEA, and state and local police, are privy today to incredible amounts of personal information with shockingly little oversight. New surveillance techniques, including stingray devices, cell-site location tracking, and domestic drones, pose significant new threats to communities that continue to bear a disproportionate burden of police activity related to the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror.” This panel will examine those techniques and their current legal rules, as well as how those techniques have affected—and will continue to affect—low-income, Black, Latino, and Muslim communities. By the end of this panel, students will have a background on new surveillance techniques and will be primed to challenge the use of those techniques when they come across them in practice. Session Organizers: Allison Frankel, Katie Haas, Avi Samarth.

Using Law to Occupy Wall Street
Four years ago, the Occupy Wall Street movement galvanized debates on economic inequality, which continue to reverberate throughout policy and academic circles. One of the root causes of financial instability and inequality is regulatory capture—financial policymakers are heavily lobbied by, and susceptible to, vested Wall Street interests. What are some of the countervailing progressive forces, and how can those with legal expertise get involved in reforming financial law and policy? How did Occupy the SEC shape the Volcker rule? And what is next: what are some of the current burning issues in this area? Leading progressive advocates representing the Occupy movement will share their perspectives on these questions. Session Organizer: Zorka Milin.

Waging a Battle for Immigrant Rights in the South
Panel members will discuss struggles that immigrant communities in the South have faced in the past few years ranging from Arizona-style anti-immigrant laws to corporate-run detention centers to hyper-enforcement of immigration laws and racial profiling. Panelists will share victories and their strategies for success. The audience will also learn about existing needs and how they can support the movement for immigrant dignity in the South. Session Moderator: Zak Manfredi. Session Organizer: Azadeh Shahshahani

Progressive Critiques of Family Law
The family has long been placed on a pedestal as the natural foundation of society. The family as a socially constructed political and legal institution has also been subject to critique historically from the progressive and feminist left. Still, families and the legal order that structures them remain an under-discussed site of power dynamics and social hierarchy - both within families and between families. This panel considers ways that family law is politically problematic and aims to open up a discussion destabilizing assumptions about families in law and society. Session organizer: Samantha Godwin.

Language Discrimination and Law Enforcement
Law enforcement agencies frequently discriminate against limited English proficient (LEP) individuals, making it harder for those individuals to report crimes. This session’s purpose is to bring attention to the discrimination and to explore potential legal remedies.Private litigation can help confront this problem, as some courts have found language discrimination to be a form of national origin discrimination. Last March, Legal Services NYC filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the NYPD on behalf of immigrant LEP survivors of domestic violence and crime victims who were denied interpretation by the NYPD. Plaintiffs assert Equal Protection violations, intentional discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and violations of other civil rights statutes. The Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest and the case is currently awaiting trial. The panel seeks to accomplish three goals: 1) raise awareness of the impact discriminatory law enforcement policies have on LEP individuals; 2) review possible grounds for private civil rights litigation in this field; and 3) consider the challenges to such litigation. Session Organizer: Joshua Revesz.

Litigating in the Land of Lawlessness: Strategies for Litigating on Behalf of Farm Animals
Over ten billion farm animals are raised and killed in the United States per year. The vast majority of these animals are raised in confined, industrialized settings and experience numerous welfare issues. However, very few laws exist to protect farm animals. Cheryl Leahy and Peter Petersan will discuss the strategies their respective animal protection organizations use to help farm animals in the courts. Session Organizer: Irina Anta.

Public Money for Public Interest
Recent events, such as the global financial crisis, quantitative easing, the debt ceiling crisis and the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United have revealed the need to fundamentally rethink our basic understanding of how money can and should interact with public policymaking more generally. Unfortunately, however, the majority of progressives have had little exposure to the dry, technical issues around which this rethinking needs to occur, and the exposure they have had tends to be lacking in both systemic vision and legal granularity. This panel will introduce participants to the political and legal struggles currently taking place around money and provide theoretical and historical tools to start thinking about the politics and legal architecture of money. Session Organizers: Raúl Carrillo, Lily Vo.

Women and Mass Incarceration
Although men have been the primary focus of incarceration reform, women comprise around 18 percent of the incarcerated population—and that percentage is growing rapidly. This panel will address the causes and consequences of the incarceration of women, the needs of incarcerated women as distinct from those of men, and strategies for pushing criminal justice reform for women to the forefront of modern feminist campaigns. Session Organizers: Taylor Henley, Eva Shang.

Cognition and Criminality: Sociolegal Implications of Neuroscience
Prominent neuroscientists, journalists and legal scholars discuss how neuroscience can affect sociolegal policy, where the law is failing mental health, and how it can improve. Session Organizers: Celina Aldape, Alon Gur.

The Criminalization of Homelessness: Politics, Consequences, and Local Responses
Many American cities contain laws that criminalize the basic activities of homeless people. These activities include sleeping, camping, or sitting in public spaces; begging, loitering, and vagrancy; sleeping in vehicles; and sharing food with homeless people. The incidence of such bans has increased considerably nationwide since 2011. This panel will examine the politics and consequences of the criminalization of homelessness through the lens of homelessness in New Haven. New Haven is home to a high level of poverty and visible homelessness. While several service initiatives have developed specific responses to issues such as chronic and veteran homelessness, public spaces such as the New Haven Green remain the subject of political controversy and public debate concerning homelessness. In January 2014, for instance, local homelessness advocates protested proposed changes to the city’s park ordinance that would prohibit sleeping overnight on the green. Session Organizer: Sophie House.

Breaking Down Social and Legal Barriers to Health: The Medical-Legal Partnership
A Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) is a well-established model of patient care delivery that integrates legal services into the medical setting. MLPs aim to address the non-medical, social determinants of health that have legal remedies. This panel conversation will feature a handful of doctors and lawyers who have established MLPs that serve very different populations – palliative care patients, unaccompanied immigrant children, and the reentry population. The panelists will discuss the motivations and processes behind establishing MLPs, the benefits that integrating legal and medical services has offered to their patients/clients, and the degree and nature of collaboration between health and legal professionals. The primary purpose of this panel is to provide an overview of what MLPs are, how they work, and whom they can assist in overcoming social and legal barriers to health. Session Organizers: Jeff Chen, Jessica Tsang.

Strategy Session: Reforming Policing Post-Ferguson
The goal of this strategy session is to connect law students who are working on policing issues with practitioners in the field and other law students in their region. The session will begin with presentations from practitioners who are leading policing related campaigns at the local, national and international levels. Participants will then breakout into facilitated caucuses to discuss how the campaigns presented relate to work in their home region and make plans for future coordination. Session Organizers: Abdi Aidid, Shelle Shimizu, Jahi Wise.

Wage Justice for Low-wage Immigrant Workers
Lawyers and organizers will discuss the prevalence of wage theft among low-wage immigrant workers and the challenges these workers face in recouping their stolen wages. Particular attention will be given to organizing and litigation strategies; changes in the immigrant labor force as part of comprehensive immigration reform; and the practicalities of recovering wages for immigrant workers. Session Organizers: Julia Solórzano, Liz Willis.


RebLaw’s caucuses hope to generate more discussion amongst participants. These discussions aim to be smaller than the panels and workshops, provided a space for people to discuss how more narrow concerns inform and challenge their approach to social justice and lawyering. But maybe more importantly, this year’s caucuses hope to broaden the spectrum of what each of us might consider rebellious lawyering to be and add tools to how we discuss and address these issues. A first come, first served sign up for these caucuses will be available in the registration room, 122.