• Schmidt Wins AALS Scholarly Paper Competition

    by  • November 22, 2013 • Faculty in the News, Faculty Scholarship • 0 Comments

    Schmidt_Chris thumbCongratulations to our own Professor Christopher Schmidt, who has been chosen as the winner of the 2014 American Association of Law Schools Scholarly Paper Competition. Prof. Schmidt’s paper, “Divided by Law: The Sit-Ins and the Role of the Courts in the Civil Rights Movement,” was selected from a pool of 60 others by a special committee of law scholars. The AALS press release notes that the Scholarly Paper Competition was established in 1986 “to highlight the excellent work of junior faculty at the urging of then AALS President Roger Cramton.” Schmidt will present his paper at the AALS Annual Meeting on Saturday, January 4, in New York. Read the abstract of the paper below:

    The lunch counter sit-in movement of 1960 was a contest not only over nondiscriminatory access to public accommodations, but also over the role of the courts in the developing civil rights movement. The students who launched the sit-ins explicitly defined their protest as an alternative to litigation-based reform tactics. Leading civil rights lawyers, in contrast, urged the students to rely on the judicial process. White business owners and local officials also divided over whether criminal prosecution of the protesters would best serve their interests. These divergent attitudes toward the courts derived from differences of strategy and ideology. They were also affected by developments in Fourteenth Amendment doctrine: by 1960, whether the non-discrimination principle of Brown v. Board of Education reached (or would soon reach) privately owned public accommodations was an open question. Conflict over the appropriate role of the courts ultimately worked to the students’ advantage. It contributed to their collective identity as a protest movement, helped secure outside support, and divided their opponents. Attention to the expectations diverse people placed upon the courts offers a vehicle for charting the ways law and perceptions of law shaped the sit-in movement at various levels—in the streets as well as the courts, among laypeople as well as lawyers and judges. This approach suggests new insights into the intersection of formal legal change and social movement mobilization.

    You can now download this paper on SSRN here.

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