Marquette Lawyer Magazine Looks at the Milwaukee Public Schools—and Seemingly Timeless Societal Problems, Especially Segregation (Post 2 of 3)

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Judge John W. Reynolds sitting in a chairA previous blog post discussed a pair of stories in the Summer 2019 Marquette Lawyer magazine and concluded by quoting one of them: specifically, an observation by Professor David Strauss of the University of Chicago, based on the Boden Lecture at Marquette Law School by Duke’s Professor Ernest Young, that “in the end, there is only so much the law can do to save a society from its own moral failings.” This post takes up a second pair of stories in the magazine, from which one might draw the same conclusion.

While it remains a fact about the large majority of schools in the Milwaukee area now, segregation of Milwaukee school students by race was the subject of great energy—attention, advocacy, and controversy—in the 1960s and 1970s. Two pieces in this summer’s Marquette Lawyer focus on the Milwaukee education scene of that earlier era.

In one, Alan Borsuk, the Law School’s senior fellow in law and public policy, writes about the decision issued in January 1976, by U.S. District Judge John W. Reynolds, which ordered that the Milwaukee Public Schools be desegregated. “A Simple Order, a Complex Legacy” touches upon the legal history of school desegregation cases, Reynolds’ 1976 ruling itself, and the legacy of that Milwaukee ruling. To borrow a phrase from Professor Young’s Boden Lecture, there is scarcely “an optimistic, onward-and-upward feel” to the account. Continue reading “Marquette Lawyer Magazine Looks at the Milwaukee Public Schools—and Seemingly Timeless Societal Problems, Especially Segregation (Post 2 of 3)”

New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Sees Past Problems as Shedding Light on Future Challenges (Post 1 of 3)

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, Federalism, Judges & Judicial Process, Legal History, Marquette Lawyer Magazine, Popular Culture & Law, Race & Law, Speakers at Marquette, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Sees Past Problems as Shedding Light on Future Challenges (Post 1 of 3)

This cover of the summer issue of the Marquette Lawyer. The Summer 2019 issue of Marquette Lawyer features three pairs of stories with an underlying common theme that can be summed up by one of the headlines: “In Search of Better Outcomes.” This issue of the Marquette Law School semiannual magazine overall has a substantial historical orientation, but it also speaks strongly to current realities and issues—as has become even clearer since the magazine hit the streets a few weeks ago. Simply put, learning about the past helps in understanding the present and considering the future. This post takes up one pair of articles: the cover story and a reaction to it.

The cover story, “Dying Constitutionalism and the Fourteenth Amendment,” is an edited version of the Robert F. Boden Lecture given at Marquette Law School in fall 2018, by Ernest A. Young, the Alston & Bird Professor at Duke Law School. While the Fourteenth Amendment later would be crucial to the growth of constitutional protections and the extension of civil rights—the linchpin of America’s “second founding,” as it is sometimes called—Young focuses on the first 75 years after the amendment was ratified in 1868. It was a period of broad suppression of civil rights, particularly those of African Americans—the Fourteenth Amendment not working much to the contrary.

Young’s purpose is not so much historical as jurisprudential: He presents his essay as a cautionary tale about “living constitutionalism,” demonstrating that, while that mode of constitutional interpretation was not the Court’s stated approach in those 75 years, it could have been: For “every one of [living constitutionalism’s] modalities strongly supported the compromise or even abandonment of the amendment’s core purpose of freedom and equality for black Americans.” Simply stated, the history of the use of the amendment is a reminder that “social progress is not inevitable, that social forces can push constitutional meaning in bad as well as good directions, that living can turn into dying constitutionalism if we are not very, very careful,” Young writes.

In a comment on Young’s lecture, David A. Strauss, Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and author of The Living Constitution (Oxford 2012), says that the early failures under the Fourteenth Amendment need to be reckoned with by those who are proponents of living constitutionalism. He writes that Young’s lecture shows that “in the end, there is only so much that the law can do to save a society from its own moral failings.”

A future post will discuss another pair of articles in the magazine that would support the same reaction. Click here to read both Young’s lecture and Strauss’s comment.