Lively Discussions, Keynote Address Highlight 2014 Symposium

Six decades after the landmark civil rights decision Brown v. Board of Education, cause lawyering – defined by some as the usage of law for the promotion of social change – has evolved to encompass a wide spectrum of issues and struggles.

Such growth has also led to questions involving strategies, techniques, and their effectiveness in today’s legal landscape. Examining those and related issues was the aim of the University of La Verne College of Law’s 2014 Symposium Brown v. Board of Education at 60: Cause Lawyering for a New Generation.

Hosted at the law school’s Ontario campus by the La Verne Law Review, the February 28 symposium gathered law students, legal educators and professionals, as well as members of the community to explore many of the issues that cause lawyering has and continues to raise. While the day delivered stormy conditions outside, inside panelists and more than 80 attendees took part in lively discussions covering four specific areas: immigration, voting rights, reproductive rights, and LGBT equality.

F. Michael Higginbotham, the William H. Elkins Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, spoke to the importance of cause lawyering during his keynote address.

“Cause lawyers are those most valuable individuals in our American democracy. Cause lawyers are so important because they are the ones who feel the hunger pains of children who have not eaten in days; those who feel the wounds of refugees who have been tortured; those who feel the chills of the homeless who sleep out in the cold; and those who feel the degradation of gays and women and immigrants and racial minorities who continue to be treated unequally in our society,” said Higginbotham, a civil rights, human rights and constitutional legal expert, and author of both Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America and Race Law: Cases, Commentary, and Questions.

While allowing that work as a cause lawyer can, in some cases, provide fame and financial success, Higginbotham asserted the real rewards were less tangible and far more satisfying.

“There is nothing better,” he said, “than knowing you have helped the impoverished, that you have helped the hungry, that you have helped the politically powerless, that you have helped the undereducated, to gain at least a semblance of dignity.”

The day’s panel sessions and panelists included:

Cause Lawyering and the Immigration Setting – Professor Marisa Cianciarulo, Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law; Jorge Castillo, staff attorney, MALDEF; Robin Goldfaden, senior attorney, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area; Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law.

Voting Rights: Challenges and Opportunities for Cause Lawyers in the 21st Century – Professor and Dean Emeritus Charles Doskow, La Verne Law; Anita S. Earls, executive director, Southern Coalition for Social Justice; John Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law, Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law; Associate Professor Justin Levitt, Loyola Law School Los Angeles.

Waging War in the Battle Over Reproductive Rights – Professor Tiffany Graham, La Verne Law; Lynn D. Wardle, Bruce C. Hafen Professor of Law, BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School; Professor David Meyer, UC Irvine; Clarissa Woo Hermosillo, director of policy advocacy, ACLS and ACLU Foundation of Southern California; Beth Parker, chief legal counsel, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.

The Movement for LGBT Equality: Lawyers, Activists, and setting Priorities – Professor Stacy Sobel, Western State University College of Law; Professor Diane Klein, La Verne Law; Gwendolyn Leachman, Sears Fellow, The Williams Institute; Emily Doskow, attorney and mediator; Ilona Turner, legal director, Transgender Law Center.

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