Getting Justice and Getting Even

Legal Consciousness Among Working-Class Americans

Author: Sally Engle Merry

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 0226520692

Category: Law

Page: 227

View: 4987

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Ordinary Americans often bring family and neighborhood problems to court, seeking justice or revenge. The litigants in these local squabbles encounter law at its boundaries in the corridors of busy city courthouses, in the offices of court clerks, and in the church parlors used by mediation programs. Getting Justice and Getting Even concerns the legal consciousness of working class Americans and their experiences with court and mediation. Following cases into and through the courts, Sally Engle Merry provides an ethnographic study of local law and of the people who use it in a New England city. The litigants, primarily white, native-born, and working class, go to court because as part of mainstream America they feel entitled to use its legal system. Although neither powerful nor highly educated, they expect the law's support when they face intolerable infringements of their rights, privacy, and safety. Yet as personal problems enter the legal system and move through mediation sessions, clerk's hearings, and prosecutor's conferences, the citizen plaintiff rapidly loses control of the process. Court officials and mediators interpret and characterize the meaning of these experiences, reframing and categorizing them in different discourses. Some plaintiffs yield to these interpretations, but others resist, struggling to assert their own version of the problem. Ultimately, Merry exposes the paradox of legal entitlement. While going to court allows an individual to dominate domestic relationships, the litigant must increasingly yield control of the situation to the court that supplies that power.
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Building the Prison State

Race and the Politics of Mass Incarceration

Author: Heather Schoenfeld

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 022652101X

Category: History

Page: 379

View: 735

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The United States incarcerates more people per capita than any other industrialized nation in the world—about 1 in 100 adults, or more than 2 million people—while national spending on prisons has catapulted 400 percent. Given the vast racial disparities in incarceration, the prison system also reinforces race and class divisions. How and why did we become the world’s leading jailer? And what can we, as a society, do about it? Reframing the story of mass incarceration, Heather Schoenfeld illustrates how the unfinished task of full equality for African Americans led to a series of policy choices that expanded the government’s power to punish, even as they were designed to protect individuals from arbitrary state violence. Examining civil rights protests, prison condition lawsuits, sentencing reforms, the War on Drugs, and the rise of conservative Tea Party politics, Schoenfeld explains why politicians veered from skepticism of prisons to an embrace of incarceration as the appropriate response to crime. To reduce the number of people behind bars, Schoenfeld argues that we must transform the political incentives for imprisonment and develop a new ideological basis for punishment.
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Policing Immigrants

Local Law Enforcement on the Front Lines

Author: Doris Marie Provine,Monica W. Varsanyi,Paul G. Lewis,Scott H. Decker

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 022636321X

Category: Political Science

Page: 208

View: 5686

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The United States deported nearly two million illegal immigrants during the first five years of the Obama presidency—more than during any previous administration. President Obama stands accused by activists of being “deporter in chief.” Yet despite efforts to rebuild what many see as a broken system, the president has not yet been able to convince Congress to pass new immigration legislation, and his record remains rooted in a political landscape that was created long before his election. Deportation numbers have actually been on the rise since 1996, when two federal statutes sought to delegate a portion of the responsibilities for immigration enforcement to local authorities. Policing Immigrants traces the transition of immigration enforcement from a traditionally federal power exercised primarily near the US borders to a patchwork system of local policing that extends throughout the country’s interior. Since federal authorities set local law enforcement to the task of bringing suspected illegal immigrants to the federal government’s attention, local responses have varied. While some localities have resisted the work, others have aggressively sought out unauthorized immigrants, often seeking to further their own objectives by putting their own stamp on immigration policing. Tellingly, how a community responds can best be predicted not by conditions like crime rates or the state of the local economy but rather by the level of conservatism among local voters. What has resulted, the authors argue, is a system that is neither just nor effective—one that threatens the core crime-fighting mission of policing by promoting racial profiling, creating fear in immigrant communities, and undermining the critical community-based function of local policing.
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The Politics of Islamic Law

Local Elites, Colonial Authority, and the Making of the Muslim State

Author: Iza R. Hussin

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 022632334X

Category: Law

Page: 351

View: 5925

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"In [this book], Iza R. Hussin compares India, Malaya, and Egypt during the British colonial period in order to trace the making and transformation of the contemporary category of "Islamic law." She demonstrates that not only is Islamic law not the shari{u06E5}a, but that its present institutional forms, substantive content, symbolic vocabulary, and relationship to state and society - in short, its politics - are built upon foundations laid during the colonial encounter. Drawing on extensive archival work in English, Arabic, and Malay - from court records to colonia and local papers to private letters and visual material - Hussin offers a view of politics in the colonial period as an iterative series of negotiations between local and colonia powers in multiple locations. ... Combining a genealogy of law with a political analysis of its institutional dynamics, t his book offers an up-close-look at the ways in which global transformations are realized at the local level."--Back cover.
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The Language of Statutes

Laws and Their Interpretation

Author: Lawrence Solan

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

ISBN: 9780226767963

Category: Language Arts & Disciplines

Page: 288

View: 3346

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Pulling the rug out from debates about interpretation, The Language of Statutes joins together learning from law, linguistics, and cognitive science to illuminate the fundamental issues and problems in this highly contested area. Here, Lawrence M. Solan argues that statutory interpretation is alive, well, and not in need of the major overhaul that many have suggested. Rather, he suggests, the majority of people understand their rights and obligations most of the time, with difficult cases occurring in circumstances that we can predict from understanding when our minds do not work in a lawlike way. Solan explains that these cases arise because of the gap between our inability to write crisp yet flexible laws on one hand and the ways in which our cognitive and linguistic faculties are structured on the other. Making our lives easier and more efficient, we’re predisposed to absorb new situations into categories we have previously formed—but in the legislative and judicial realms this can present major difficulties. Solan provides an excellent introduction to statutory interpretation, rejecting the extreme arguments that judges have either too much or too little leeway, and explaining how and why a certain number of interpretive problems are simply inevitable.
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