Excerpted From: Brian G. Gilmore and Hannah D. Adams, The Case for A Reparations Clinic: a Proposal for Investigation, Documentation, and Remediation of Historic Housing Discrimination Through the Law School Clinic Model, 2018 Michigan State Law Review 1309 (2018) (197 Footnotes) (Full Document)
The United States of America must reckon with its history of state-sanctioned racism and its present economic impact on African Americans. The country can--and must--address this legacy of racial discrimination with reconciliation for victims of race-based policies, laws, and customs that established and perpetuated a racial caste system in the United States. These policies, laws, and customs include, at a minimum, injustices related to the Jim Crow era and the Transatlantic Slave Trade as it manifested itself in the United States.
The nation can ignore this problem and allow all of the additional problems that continue to fester and mutate as a result of that decision, but that will not make the issue disappear. Racial division will likely remain, and the wealth inequality and sense of bitterness based upon the history that exists as a result of learning of the socioeconomic impact of the racial decisions made by the country is not likely to dissipate.
This Article proposes a blueprint for a legal clinic at a law college that will seek to begin the work of a movement--legal, political, and otherwise--for reparations for African Americans in the United States, focusing on the housing market. While the law clinic shall focus on restitution for past injustices in the housing market, it will also highlight reparations in general as described by many writers and activists in the past. Thus, the focus of the clinic shall be on reparations in general for all past injustices based on, motivated by, or linked to race or racism that affected and continue to affect the African-American population.
Part I of this paper shall define and describe reparations and the injustices that have created the moral justification (the history, as recounted by writers and historians) for a model for action and preservation of factual evidence.
Part II shall discuss other restorative justice efforts and efforts to address problems of this nature by other individuals and organizations in the past.
Part III shall set forth the blueprint for a law clinic as envisioned by this project, the various activities the clinic might be engaged in, the goals and mission of the clinic, and what kinds of expertise might be needed for such a clinic--legal, academic, and otherwise.
Finally, this Article concludes with a focus on the challenges to this effort that are quite obvious even at the planning stage. We begin with a discussion of United States racial history and the actual problem this clinic will seek to address.
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While the chances of reparations for the descendants of the victims of racism historically continue to remain uncertain, the path to reparations is becoming less elusive than previously thought. As demonstrated in the Article, models for restorative justice are emerging in this evolving area of the law. And in that respect, law school clinics have proven to be unique entities for new areas of legal advocacy over the years. The unique manner in which law school clinics function make law school clinics a possible outlet for a real effort at reparations in the future, despite some obvious challenges. Yet, the private law school law clinic could be an ideal choice for experimentation with this special remedy for past human rights crimes. This Article has sought to provide guidelines and a blueprint for how such an effort can begin to be constructed.
Brian G. Gilmore is an Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law.
Hannah D. Adams is an Equal Justice Works Fellow and Staff Attorney at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services located in New Orleans, Louisiana.