Category: Uncategorized

The Effect of Foundational Law on the Environment

By: Sara Robideaux

Pierson v Post, decided in 1805 and regarding an incident in 1802, is an American legal case involving property law. This case took place in the state of New York and begged the question of rights while pursuing a wild animal. This ruling is considered both foundational and essential in future property law cases.[1]

The Costs of Prison Visitation

By: Kemper Scott

The U.S. alone holds 20% of the world’s prisoners.[1] According to a report by the Prison Policy Initiative, the total cost of maintaining our prison populations for state and federal government and the families of those locked away is up to $182 billion annually.[2] For the families of those locked away, the costs can be severe both financially and socially. In this post, I would like to briefly examine the cost imposed on the families and communities of those incarcerated through the lens of one aspect of prison policy: visitation.

Native Representation and Hope for Environmental Change

By: Tori Myers

Section I: Introduction
The Department of the Interior is responsible for the natural and cultural upkeep of this country. This has been done in different means such as collaborating with legislatures to make services such as the National Park Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These two specific departments heavily interact with Native American communities and land, yet Native Americans have been historically underrepresented in these department positions. The lack of representation can be correlated to the inequitable treatment of Native Americans in the legal system along with the low amounts of political participation and education in some Native communities. While this is a problem that stems from the historic injustice done to tribes, the modern age has shown that there is hope and an optimistic turn in representation for Native Americans within this country with the announcement of tribal members running and being appointed to office.

Britney Spears, Conservatorships, and Reproductive Freedom

By: Anna Vander Kooi

On June 23, 2021, Britney Spears offered her testimony to the court pertaining to her high-profile conservatorship that began thirteen years ago.[1] In this conservatorship, Spears’ personal life and finances were under the discretion of her father, James Spears, with whom the singer has had a tumultuous relationship. There were many jarring moments throughout her 23-minute speech, as she accused her conservators of putting her on heavy medication, forcing her to perform, and withholding the money she’s earned.[2]  What’s more, Spears claimed that her reproductive rights were compromised through the conservatorship. “I was told right now in the conservatorship, I’m not able to get married or have a baby,” she testified, according to a New York Times transcript.[3] “I have a ID [IUD] inside of myself right now so I don’t get pregnant. I wanted to take the ID [IUD] out so I could start trying to have another baby. But this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have children, any more children.”[4] Spears’s revelation that she has been subject to forced methods of birth control caused waves within the public. While her accusations were shocking to hear, her experience of limited reproductive freedom is by no means uncommon for individuals under a conservatorship or otherwise deemed disabled. There are several cases that demonstrate the reproductive restraints that conservators have been permitted to oversee for disabled people.[5]

Raz’s Exclusive Positivism and Judges’ Ability to Make Law: Where Are the Limits?

By: Natalie Guarino, Georgetown University

All legal positivists believe that law’s existence is a result of social facts, not normative value. Within legal positivism, there is a split between inclusive and exclusive positivists. According to inclusive positivists, although law’s existence does not depend on its merits, law can include moral principles. According to exclusive positivists, it is not possible to incorporate moral principles into law. Joseph Raz, one of the twentieth century’s most influential legal philosophers, is an exclusive positivist who believes that the content of law can be understood solely through social facts, not moral principles. [1] In effect, he believes that law cannot include dictates like ‘do what is fair’ or ‘do what is just.’ Raz’s argument for exclusive positivism relies on multiple theses and justifications. This post critiques Raz’s assertion that judges are able to make law by relying on moral considerations without incorporating those moral considerations into law.

Judicial Override and Divided Juries: Capital Punishment in Alabama

by: David Ware


The Sun Does Shine authored by Anthony Hinton, discusses the criminal justice system in the State of Alabama, specifically addressing the use of capital punishment. Mr. Hinton, an African American man, was convicted of the murder of two restaurant workers in 1985 and was sentenced to death.[1] However, there are two important distinctions to be made about this case. First and foremost, Mr. Hinton was wrongly convicted and was released in 2015, 30 years after his arrest. Secondly, he was sentenced to death by a nonunanimous jury vote of 10-2.[2] Mr. Hinton’s story is a terrifying reality that many in the State of Alabama face, not only was he innocent of the charges brought against him, but he was sentenced to death by majority not unanimity.

Recidivism and Reentry: The Perils of Civil Death

by: Ava Fisher (Prison Writing Competition winner, 2021)


The criminal justice system in the U.S. has long represented a response to a very fundamental belief of democracy: the concept of the social contract. Social contract theory is rooted in ancient political theory that inspired the very birth of democracy itself. However, a contemporary understanding that has been implemented in much of western governance draws its influence from the discourse of enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean Jacques Rousseau.[i] This idea of the social contract revealed that in order to receive protection of property and life by the State, individuals had to sacrifice personal liberty. This sacrifice was viewed as the action to forgo man’s intrinsic nature to pursue brute power and war against his brethren in favor of society, community, and governance.[ii]

A New Age of Community Oriented Policing

by: Tristan McCallister

     Policing in America has obviously come under extremely hot water recently as protests and demonstrations raged throughout the summer and in the later months of 2020. Police distrust has skyrocketed and officers have begun to leave departments across the country at alarming rates.  According to Fort Worth Police Officer Association President Manny Ramirez there was a 60% drop in the number of applications to police departments nationally.  (Rozier, 2020) Due to these events, policing is becoming increasingly dangerous, as of July 13, 2020 there was a ”28% jump in felonious officer deaths.” (Hutchinson, 2020). So it is important to note that while there is much need for reform, police don’t really have much reason to flow with public opinion, because public opinion largely doesn’t seem to fall on their side.  Looking back at the general flow of police history from the political model, to the reform model to what is seen today in community oriented policing, the development of COP during the reform era of the 60s devalued the legalistic idea of crime control.  In turn this prompted citizens and police to “develop new strategies and methods to respond to crime and order-maintenance problems.” The professionalization of police seen in this period also went hand in hand with the development of police unions in the 1960s. (Novak, Cordner, Smith, & Roberg, 2009) Perhaps the reforms of 40-60 years ago did not go far enough, or perhaps it is time to update policing to the trends of increasing mental health issues, the decriminalization of drugs, sex crimes and other order-maintence crimes.  So, there is potential for a new much needed era of police reform and it appears America may be entering it, if not in its full swing currently. There are thousands of reforms that can transform American policing and many involve revolutionizing training or education or use of force policies, etc.   Changes in training and education are vital steps for any changing profession and they are reforms that have been made in policing before, and perhaps need to be made again.  But, the promotion of a nationally mandated use of force database, transparency encouraging civilian review boards, and safe alternative crisis intervention teams for the mentally ill are reforms that have never really been instituted before recently and they work to address the problems of accountability, transparency, and safety.