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Showing posts from January, 2019

How do text messages complicate contemporary sexual assault adjudication?

By Heather Hlavka and Sameena Mulla 
Department of Social and Cultural Sciences, Marquette University


“There’s no video, no injury. It’s purely one hundred percent ‘he said, she said.’ They had a terrible relationship. They were nasty to each other and they don’t get along well, probably never will. But there is no evidence to support the state’s case, other than their words.” Our article, “’That’s How She Talks’: Animating Text Message Evidence in the Sexual Assault Trial,” begins with these familiar words offered by a defense attorney during a sexual assault trial in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The oft-invoked trope of “he said, she said” in cases of sexual violence suggests that without third-party eye witness testimony or material evidence, sexual assault allegations rest on conflicting reports provided by victims, the accused, and other witnesses. But how do trial attorneys reinvent this trope when the words of the witnesses are preserved as text messages?

Text messages are recorded co…

Lynchings and Contemporary Whites’ Perceptions of Blacks as Criminals

By Daniel P. Mears, Eric A. Stewart, Patricia Y. WarrenMiltonette O. Craig, and Ashley N. Arnio


For this study, we examined the idea that Whites who resided in areas where lynchings occurred would be more likely to view Blacks as criminals. We also wanted to investigate whether, more specifically, they would view Blacks as likely to commit crimes against Whites.

In so doing, we build on a growing body of scholarship that has examined the long-lasting effects of past lynchings on contemporary American society. Much of this work points to the notion that historical violence against Blacks has had repercussions that extend up to the present.

As we considered this idea, we took heed of research that has highlighted the salience of race in contemporary discussions about crime and punishment. Many studies have highlighted, for example, the dramatic increase in prisons nationally. Indeed, a large literature now has focused on understanding the causes and effects of what has come to be …

TASER Technology and Police Officers’ Understanding and Use of Force

Michael Sierra-Arévalo
Rutgers University-Newark

The TASER--a weapon that uses electric current to incapacitate a subject by causing complete neuromuscular incapacitation--is ubiquitous among U.S. police officers. Spurred by pressure to reduce the lethality of police force, this force technology it is now used by more than 17,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Proponents of TASERs are quick to point out that research shows that most TASER deployments do not result in serious injury or death, and that TASERs provide officers with a useful, less-than-lethal alternative to their firearms. TASER critics, in turn, emphasize that even if TASERs are rarely lethal, 50,000 volts cause excruciating pain, fear, and psychological distress. They further emphasize that the TASER, like any weapon, can still be misused by police officers.

Though a large body of research examines police force, little is known about how officers make their use-of-force decisions in light of this new, less-than-lethal t…

Law & Society Review is pleased to announce two opportunities for scholars who are from or who write about the Global South. Both opportunities have early January deadlines.

The first opportunity is the Sociolegal Studies Early Career Writing Workshop, March 21-23, 2019, at the University of Cape Town. This intensive workshop, co-sponsored by Law & Society Review, is for a small group of early career scholars from any university in Africa to receive feedback on papers in progress and mentoring on writing/publishing processes. The goal is to help one another toward writing goals and publication. The Workshop will cover travel expenses and accommodation. Applications (including draft paper and letter of reference) are due January 14, 2019. For details, please visit the Early Career Workshop website here. For additional questions, contact pbl-cls@uct.ac.za.

Another opportunity is the Law and Society in Africa conference, April 1-3, 2019, organized by American University Cairo's Law & Society Research Unit. The first Law and Society in Africa Conference, held in South Africa in 2016, was a great success, with more than 100 attendees…

The Drug War’s Aftermath: How Federal Crack Prosecutions Drive Institutional Racial Inequality

By Mona Lynch & Marisa Omori
We are in the midst of a national opioid addiction crisis that rivals the 1980s’ drug crisis involving crack cocaine. So far, the official governmental response to the opioid crisis has been much more measured, treating the problem more as a public health issue than a criminal justice one. Such was not the case with crack cocaine. As some commentators have noted, a major difference between these two crises is the public face of the addict in each instance, as distinguished by race. 
It is hard to overstate the punitive impact of the crack frenzy, built on racialized stereotypes about both crack addicts and their suppliers, and unleashed across the U.S. The federal government led the way in turning the crack panic into legislation, passing draconian sentencing statutes that incorporated a 100-1 powder-crack cocaine weight disparity in the mandatory minimum sentence thresholds. Federal law enforcement increasingly targeted crack cocaine suspects, wieldin…

On writing

By Susan Sterett
Law & Society Review Co-Editor

One thing I know for sure after having co-edited Law and Society Review for almost three years is that just about every college and university would like more publications from faculty members. Many colleges and universities around the world want people to write for peer-reviewed journals, so like other journals, Law and Society Review has been getting an increasing number of submissions. Some journals have big backlogs. Some journals have stopped accepting submissions. Everyone is overwhelmed with content. How can you prepare your paper for LSR? This post will point to a few resources that could help, based in my experience from editing, conversations with other editors, and my conversations at the wonderful 2017 sociolegal studies early career workshop at the University of Cape Town. All have made me rethink how I submit to journals.

A few thoughts, most of which are readily found on the internet. Even so, many people may no…

Unintended Gender Parity and Speculative Isomorphism in India’s Law Firms

By Swethaa S.Ballakrishnen UC Irvine School of Law


“Look, we have equal number of male and female partners. A thought like [gender discrimination] doesn’t even arise…the culture is just different here.”

In India, elite law firms are a limited – and surprising – oasis within a hostile, predominantly male industry. About (and, by some accounts[SB1] , well under) 10% of all lawyers in the country are female, but women in the biggest and most prestigious law firms are significantly represented both at entry level and in more senior levels of partnership. What is more, many women in these firms, like in the quote above, feel that gender discrimination “just isn’t there” within their subjective environments. This kind of lived experience offers a rich contrast to the general narrative of women and work in general, but especially in the context of India, where the cultural politics of women entering prestigious white-collar work is still a relatively recent phenomenon. In a country that ranks…

The Making and Unmaking of Feminicidio/Femicidio Laws in Mexico and Nicaragua

By Paulina García-DelMoral, University of Guelph and
Pamela Neumann, Bucknell University 


Since 2010, eighteen Latin American countries have passed laws criminalizing femicidio (femicide) or feminicidio (feminicide). Femicidio refers to the misogynous killing of women by men. Extending this definition, feminicidio emphasizes the complicity of the state in such violence by tolerating its impunity. Feminist activists across the region have played a critical role in these efforts to hold states accountable for gendered violence, often through the mobilization of international human rights law in the supranational arenas of the UN and Inter-American systems.
Yet our article “The Making and Unmaking of Feminicidio/Femicidio Laws in Mexico and Nicaragua” shows how the domestic impact of feminists’ legal activism varies depending on states’ investment in achieving international legitimacy through a commitment to human rights. By comparing the law-making process in Mexico and Nicaragua, we argu…