The Uncivil Polity: Race, Poverty and Civil Legal Justice

Colloquium | March 19 | 12-1:30 p.m. | 2538 Channing (Inst. for the Study of Societal Issues), Wildavsky Conference Room

 Jamila Michener, Assistant Professor of Government, Cornell University

 Center for Research on Social Change, Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans, Institute of Governmental Studies, Department of Political Science

Civil legal institutions protect crucial economic, social, and political rights. The core functions of civil law include preventing evictions, averting deportations, advocating on behalf of public assistance beneficiaries, representing borrowers in disputes with lenders, safeguarding women from domestic violence, and resolving family disputes (e.g. child support, custody). Civil legal protections are especially critical to low-income women of color. In 2016, seventy-two percent of civil legal aid beneficiaries were women and over 50 percent were people of color. To date, civil legal institutions have remained largely invisible in the discipline of political science. This paper investigates the democratic repercussions of civil legal institutions. Drawing on data from in-depth qualitative interviews, we examine how experiences with civil legal processes affect political attitudes and action among racially and economically marginal denizens.

 crsc@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0813