The Year in Review: 2015–2016

BY: JANYL RELLING, Outgoing Editor-in-Chief

The death of Freddie Gray while in police custody and subsequent unrest in Baltimore, MD. The racially motivated mass shooting of nine parishioners at the historically black “Mother Emanuel” African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. The landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. The traffic stop that lead to the arrest and mysterious death of Sandra Bland. The continued momentum of grassroots movements such as #BlackLivesMatter. The racial climate at Mizzou and the resulting hunger strikes and student protests. The “Fight for $15.” The Flint, MI water crisis. The violence and hate speech directed at Latino immigrants as a result of presidential hopefuls’ commitments to build a wall at the United States-Mexico border.

From April 2015 through April 2016, the country saw a plethora of events and occurrences that were: 1) incredibly telling about how our nation regards issues centered on race and social justice; and 2) opportunities—either capitalized on or missed—to have serious conversations about how to collaboratively effectuate change. During this same time period, the University of Miami Race & Social Justice Law Review made great strides to increase the visibility of the Review and capitalize on our platform in order to disseminate thought- and conversation-provoking scholarly content to our readership. As the Editor-in-Chief of Volume VI, it is with great pleasure and immense pride that I look back at some of the many accomplishments made by the Race & Social Justice Law Review during the 2015–2016 academic year.

This past year, the Review honed in on the mass incarceration phenomenon with a particular focus on prison conditions. The brunt of our “RSJLR Posts” student blog was comprised of thoughtful, pointed pieces that related to this multi-faceted, national problem. Our immensely popular Facebook page served as the public’s primary connection to the member-candidates’ content on the Race & Social Justice Law Review website. To date, the Facebook page has received almost 1,150 “Likes,” resulting in a record number of people who regularly see our content in their News Feeds. In addition, each of our student blog posts reached anywhere from 1,500 to 4,800 people during the week it was featured on the Facebook page and the Race & Social Justice Law Review website. As a result of the law review’s increased visibility, we had an unprecedented number of subscription requests. It was certainly a defining year for the law review and its use of electronic media. The strategic leveraging of the Review’s online-only format through its social media presence brought our students’ informative, well-researched blog posts to an audience of thousands.

The Race & Social Justice Law Review embarked on Miami Law’s first-ever collaboration between a law review and a substantive course during the 2015–2016 academic year. The goal was to provide a unique experience for Race & Social Justice Law Review members who wished to learn about mass incarceration in greater depth and be immersed in the subject-matter for an entire semester. Entry into course “Mass Incarceration” taught by Professor Donna Coker was by application only. Six seats were reserved for Race & Social Justice Law Review members and assigned on a first-come-first-served basis in the fall. Each “Mass Incarceration” student worked with Professor Coker to develop his or her student note throughout the entire academic year. The endeavor was successful; Race & Social Justice Law Review members who enrolled in the class had an enriching experience that enhanced their membership on the law review.

After a year of planning, the Race & Social Justice Law Review presented its first scholarly panel, “Mass Incarceration: Prison Conditions and the Collateral Damage to Communities of Color,” on March 18, 2016 at Miami Law. The distinguished panel of speakers included Randall C. Berg, Jr., Esq., Executive Director, Florida Justice Institute; Paul Prestia, Esq., Criminal Defense and Civil Rights Abuses Attorney; Margo Schlanger, Henry M. Butzel Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School; Brenda V. Smith, Professor of Law, Washington College of Law at American University; and Paul Wright, Founder and Executive Director, Human Rights Defense Center and Editor of the Prison Legal News. The panel was expertly moderated by Miami Law’s own Professor Donald M. Jones. Dean Patricia White provided poignant opening remarks to a full house of law students, local dignitaries, members of the University of Miami community, and the community at large to kick off “the first of. . . many annual panels” hosted by the Race & Social Justice Law Review. The panel discussion was informative, thought-provoking, emotional, and insightful. The Review is extraordinarily proud of the event’s success.

Finally, the Race & Social Justice Law Review looks forward to its forthcoming Volume VI, scheduled for publication in May 2016. This will be our largest volume comprised of articles obtained solely through student article recruitment. Scholarship in Volume VI will include:

  • “Lies, Damn Lies, and Batson Challenges: The Right to Use Statistical Evidence to Prove Racial Bias,” by Graham R. Cronogue;
  • “Abetting Mass Prison Escape: A Defense,” by David W. Frank;
  • “A Bronx Tale: Disposable People, the Legacy of Slavery, and the Social Death of Kalief Browder,” by D. Marvin Jones;
  • “Unfinished Work: Addressing Trauma and Sexual Victimization in Custodial Settings,” by Brenda V. Smith;
  • “The U.S. Supreme Court and the Nation’s Post-Ferguson Controversies,” by Christopher E. Smith; and
  • “You Can’t Handle the Truth: A Primer on False Confessions,” by Craig J. Trocino.

In addition to scholarship from academics and practitioners, we are proud to publish four incredible student notes, including:

  • “Taking the Direct File Statute to Criminal Court: Immigration Consequences for Juveniles,” by Marlon Baquedano;
  • “Dilution of the Black Vote: Revisiting the Oppressive Methods of Voting Rights Restoration for Ex-Felons,” By Tara A. Jackson;
  • “His Wrists Were Too Small: School Resource Officers and the Over-Criminalization of America’s Students,” by Lauren Maddox; and
  • “A Never Ending State of Emergency: The Danger of National Security in Emboldening the Color Line in America,” by Celeste McCaw.

The topics the Review covers are intrinsically tied to the American landscape. Throughout our nation’s history, there have always been discrete groups either fighting or perpetrating racial injustice, social injustice, or both. Although the names will change, news stories that are fundamentally identical to those I mentioned will undoubtedly emerge in the not-so-distant future. It is the mission of the Race & Social Justice Law Review to bring important, often critical, issues that are within the scope of the law review to the foreground through scholarly discourse. I am proud of the Race & Social Justice Law Review’s incredible growth this past year and look forward to future editors continuing to use this medium effectively—seizing the opportunity to deliver researched, responsible content and programming so the law review itself is an undeniable agent of change.

One thought on “The Year in Review: 2015–2016

  1. Kate Relling

    It was a pleasure following your work this past year. Being old enough to remember the Civil Rights Movement, I know there has been progress. But there is so much more that needs to be done. You have done a wonderful job of highlighting some of the most important social justice issues we face as a nation. Your work will undoubtedly inspire many students to pursue Public Interest Law.


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