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Harvard Law Offers ‘Systemic Justice’ Program
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Systemic Justice Program

Summary: Harvard offers social activist program in their law school.

With law school enrollment at a three decade nadir, it is no wonder that various schools are trying gimmicks ranging from “get your 3 years in 2” and “get your law degree from home,” and that sort of riff raff. Harvard Law School is doing one better, and they can, after all, get away with it, being Harvard. Law professor Jon Hanson and recent law school graduate Jacob Lipton are offering a new Systemic Justice Project at Harvard. The aim is to address the common causes of injustice in history using law and activism, supposing, it seems, that the legal field hasn’t been doing this all along.


We are seeing, in other words, the sort of department take over after politics subverted the humanities throughout U.S. universities these last few decades.

“None of us really knows what ‘systemic justice’ is – yet you’re all here,” says Hanson not to his class but what he calls his “community.”

“My students have expressed increasing frustration with the fact that many of our biggest problems are not being addressed by the legal system,” says Lipton. And part of the problem, he asserts, is how law is taught, with emphasis on how the law already is. Lipton says we should not be focusing on how the legal system actually is and functions, but instead “we think that legal education should start with what the problems are in the world.”

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It may be dubious to begin with problems before understanding the tools for addressing those problems – i.e. the legal code that dates back to pax romana – to attack the entire system empty handed.

And so there are the usual college grumbles about everything being compartmentalized, into “property law, torts, contract laws.” In each one of these fields, we often try to present the case and materials as if they’re an efficient and fair whole, he claims. “Everyone’s pointing their finger at other systems that are supposed to address a harm [such as environmental pollution]. There’s no place where you’re looking at the systems in a cross section.” So naturally he is hoping for a global approach.

Other typical problems he hopes to address Hanson mentions when he says “we want to examine the role that large commercial interests play in shaping law.”

And finally, rather than focusing on individual culpability, the systemic approach wants to look at what psychological research on unconscious racial bias, police training and so forth can bespeak on the germane issue of police brutality. Community, not individuality; environment not agency.

So in other words we are hearing all the usual tropes raised, say, in the humanity departments – that is, the political left agenda – planted into Harvard’s legal department.

That’s fine, but what gets spurious is a line like this, from Harvard visiting professor Sergio Campos, who said, “Traditionally, law school education has been doctrinal. You teach students what the law is and how to apply it… When you get to a position where you can change the law, you don’t have a background on policy and what it should be.” This sort of binary, focus on the future, not the past, of course doesn’t make much sense for a school to teach, since you can’t well teach the future, but those who hope to make good policy would be well-advised to study how good policy was made in the past. Certainly a forward facing program would be a nice place to put the accent, and in a way, that has been implicit with most legal programs, since lawyers are meant to apply the system to advancing the system. In this respect, the new program may take us further in this direction.


News Source: Boston Globe


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