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October 27, 2008

Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres Visit Oregon Law, Examine Law and Social Movements

Harvard University Law Professor Lani Guinier and University of Texas Law Professor Gerald Torres, authors of the award-winning The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy, spoke to a crowd of nearly 130 at the Knight Law Center Thursday, October 23. The event was co-sponsored by the Law School and the Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics.

The joint public lecture was titled, “Changing the Wind: The Demosprudence of Social Movements.” In it, Guinier and Torres examined key social movements to show how citizens influence public policy and the law. They also analyzed the term, “Demosprudence,” which defines how ordinary citizens, through mobilized movements on both the left and the right, create new social meanings that are incorporated in law and public policy. Guinier and Torres went on to describe how the dynamic relationship between citizens and lawmaking in a democracy creates opportunities for new lawyers, activists, and policy makers.

Another highlight of the professors’ visit was an interdisciplinary faculty colloquium that took place Friday, October 24. Participants focused on the role of lawyers in social movements, how ideology is formed, how activists deal with disagreements, the role of the media, and numerous other aspects of law and social movements.

Professor Guinier, the first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School, serves as the school’s Bennett Boskey Professor of Law. Before entering academia, Guinier worked in the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, and later headed the voting rights project at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She is the author of numerous scholarly articles and books on the issues of race, gender, and democratic decision-making.

Professor Torres is the Bryant Smith Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law. A leading figure in critical race theory, he also is an expert in agricultural and environmental law. Torres is the former president of the Association of American Law Schools, has served as deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and as counsel to then U.S. attorney general Janet Reno. In 2004, Professor Torres was honored with the Legal Service Award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund for his work in advancing the legal rights of Latinos.

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