Poverty, Inequality, and Class in the Structural Constitutional Law Course

By Loffredo, Stephen | Fordham Urban Law Journal, May 2007 | Go to article overview

Poverty, Inequality, and Class in the Structural Constitutional Law Course


Loffredo, Stephen, Fordham Urban Law Journal


I. INTRODUCTION

Poverty, economic inequality, class, and distributional justice are issues embedded in our constitutional history. They have animated important developments in our constitutional understandings and hold deep, though frequently unacknowledged, significance for constitutional theory and doctrine. Historically, considerations of poverty, inequality, and class played a substantial role in the framing of the 1787 Constitution and the adoption of the Reconstruction Amendments following the Civil War. (1) During the Great Depression and the New Deal, they sparked the constitutional transformation that accompanied the radical re-conceptualization of national power and public responsibility for the material security of citizens; (2) a generation later, they figured prominently in the "due process revolution" of the 1960s and 1970s. (3) Conceptually, the continued existence of an impoverished class of citizens, politically marginalized, physically segregated, and socially isolated, stands in sharp tension with the core principle of equal citizenship and poses a direct challenge to basic assumptions underlying important areas of constitutional theory and doctrine. (4)

The relevance of poverty, economic inequality, and class to a constitutional law course dealing with individual rights ought to be readily apparent. Due process, equal protection, and the First Amendment--to take three prominent examples--provide fertile ground for exploring the significance of poverty to constitutional theory and doctrine. Less obvious, though, is how and whether these issues might be taught through a constitutional course on structure, separation of powers, and federalism. This Article explores some opportunities for integrating poverty-law issues into a structural constitutional law course and offers an argument for why such integration is desirable. Part II canvasses various understandings of the term "poverty law," briefly recounts the apparent disappearance of poverty-law issues from the law-school constitutional canon--as well as from the agenda of liberal constitutional theorists--and argues for renewed attention and re-integration. Part III discusses the overarching significance of poverty and economic inequality to constitutional theory and doctrine and recommends specific topics and cases from the standard structural constitutional law curriculum that offer opportunities for raising and developing poverty-law issues. The Article closes with a brief conclusion.

II.

As the Symposium (5) asks us to address the role of "poverty law" in the law school curriculum, it seems appropriate to reflect for a moment on the provenance and meaning of that term. Though efforts to address the distinct legal needs of poor people date back to the nineteenth century, (6) it was only in the 1960s that the phrase "poverty law" came into widespread use. The term now carries an array of overlapping meanings. In a fundamental sense, poverty law refers to the new form of legal practice that emerged during the "War on Poverty" of the 1960s, (7) a form of practice that transcended the traditional legal-aid model of providing individual representation in unconnected and usually private-law matters, and instead sought to enlist the law in a systemic effort to achieve social and structural changes that might alleviate poverty itself. (8) In a related sense, poverty law might be understood as a reference to the substantive areas in which lawyers for the poor have carried on this new kind of practice, areas as diverse as welfare law, family law, housing law, consumer law, employment law, and education law (9)--frequently intermixed with innovative theories of constitutional law and administrative law--and the distinctive approaches to those areas dictated by the needs and goals of economically distressed communities and individuals. (10) As a form of practice with transformative aspirations, poverty law might also be taken to mean one or more of the alternative models of lawyering pursued by some poverty lawyers that generally reject the hierarchies of the conventional lawyer-client relationship, favor work in alliance with social change movements, community organizations, and client groups, and envision a more facilitative and collaborative role for the attorney. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Poverty, Inequality, and Class in the Structural Constitutional Law Course
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.