The View From Below: Public Interest Lawyering, Social Change, and Adjudication
61 UCLA Law Review Discourse 182 (2013)
24 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2013
In Public Interest Lawyering: A Contemporary Perspective, Professors Alan Chen and Scott Cummings provide a nuanced and thorough account of the relationship between lawyering and social change. In this Review Essay, I explore how key insights from Chen and Cummings’ textbook could impact the way students approach adjudication, which remains the primary subject of instruction in law school classrooms. Continuing the marriage equality case study with which Chen and Cummings conclude, I analyze the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor through the lens of Public Interesting Lawyering. I argue that rather than understand the decisions as instances of top-down, court-ordered reform, students would locate the Court’s intervention within a bottom-up, dynamic process of legal and social change. As Public Interest Lawyering reveals — and as the Court’s approach in Perry and Windsor confirms — lawyers, litigants, and activists, rather than judges, drive that process.
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