j  leggett

Welcome to Fall 2021

I sincerely welcome you to the start of Fall Semester 2021. It is my great privilege to study law with you. When I graduated from law school I dreamt of a day when I could work alongside aspiring legal advocates for social change. I have been very lucky to work at Kingsborough for 11 years now. Over that time I have learned from thousands of students, colleagues, community activists, and staff. As we enter this uncertain time I invite us to think deeply about how the law might better serve our human needs. Many of us at Kingsborough have been engaged over the summer in working to bring about equitable changes, even the smallest ones, and to ensure a commitment to social justice. One such effort involves each of us to articulate our commitment as it relates to the courses we teach. I hope that you are feeling confident and energized to continue this work with me. If not, know that I am always available and ready to work with you. To begin, I would like to share my thoughts on the equity statement for fall 2021. Thank you and have a great semester full of successes!

Equity Statement and Commitment to Full Participation 


Lawyers, Judges, and Law Enforcement Officers have often used legal justifications for the abuse of power, particularly against Black and Indegenous populations throughout the history of the United States. While there are some today in popular culture politics who would like to ignore or even erase this history, the sources are easy enough to find and read, and include may notable abolitionists, anti-slavery judges, and other “white” allies. One such Judge and ally, Justice Joseph Story, compared law as a double-edged sword. If politicians, business organizations, and even religious leaders were corrupted, people could still use legal principles to argue and die for equity, basic fairness, social responsibility, and perhaps even truth. As someone who has been raised in the cultural traditions of white-anglo-saxon-protestant men, I have benefitted a great deal from institutional and ideological biases that encourage folks in positions of authority and privilege to give me the benefit of the doubt and assistance based on these shared norms. Far too often these same benefits have been kept from excluded groups of people. In response, I have spent over 20 years working to uncover my own biases, interrogate and navigate through those within a system that promotes exclusions and superiorities, and to consider what I can do, with others, to reduce the harms caused by such a system. One of those tools is to re-examine traditional learning materials and ensure that facts are presented without white-washing, and to provide representations of resistance and social group success of those who have been excluded from white spaces. The second tool is to encourage you to develop and share your own agency as you learn about the legal structures around you and to encourage full participation in course work.

The course reader has been designed with that purpose. Authors of color receive royalties from the publisher for the excerpts that you are reading. Much of the content and all of the images were designed by students. The readings have been selected, with students, to respond to issues that have persisted over the last 200 years and have represented themselves within this ultra-modern culture we find ourselves in today. Finally, all of the royalties that I have received from your purchase have gone back to students engaged in community research.

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