A Critical Legal Rhetoric Approach to 'In Re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation'
24 St. John's Journal of Legal Commentary 649 (2010)
48 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2008 Last revised: 13 Jun 2019
Date Written: April 14, 2008
In this paper I apply critical legal rhetoric to the judicial opinion rendered in response to the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended and Consolidated Complaint in 'In Re African American Slave Descendants', a case concerning the efforts of a group of modern-day descendants of enslaved African-Americans to obtain redress for the harms of slavery. The chief methodological framework for performing critical legal rhetorical analysis comes from the work of Marouf Hasian, Jr. particularly his schema for analysis which he calls substantive units in critical legal rhetoric. Critical legal rhetoric is a potent tool for exposing the way in which the public ideologies of society and the private ideologies of jurists, legislators and other legal actors are manifested in legal and law-like pronouncements. After introducing this case, I briefly tracing the evolution and meaning of the term rhetoric and examine the relationship between rhetoric and law. I next explore the connection between rhetoric and ideology, which is crystallized in the form of the ideograph and its use as a tool of what is known as critical rhetoric. Finally, I show how critical legal rhetoric is achieved by bringing critical rhetoric to law, and thereafter apply critical legal rhetoric to the case of 'In Re African American Slave Descendants'.
Keywords: Rhetoric, critical legal rhetoric, African-Americans, reparations, ideology, constitution
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