By Dalia Fuleihan
The Trump Administration’s judicial appointments had a devastating effect on courts across the country. Across the board, we are seeing courts leaning to the right and failing to defend fundamental rights. While litigation should not be the main mechanism to achieve change, it has at times provided a useful avenue to challenge unjust laws. However, our currently conservative leaning judiciary necessitates a reevaluation of the utility of litigation to progressive movements. Some of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions—most notably the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health which overturned Roe v. Wade, provide a needed reminder of the importance of grassroots organizing and community directed action in progressive movements. In this issue of the Review, we are excited to present three articles that both analyze the problems with our ineffective judiciary, but also provide alterative paths towards protecting rights and pursuing the structural change that this country sorely needs.
In “Frustrated Federalism: Daimler v. Bauman and the Entrenchment of Supranational Corporate Sovereignty,” Jake Romm, takes a deeper look at the Supreme Court’s decision in Daimler, which famously limited the state’s general jurisdiction over corporations operating within their borders—holding that corporations may only be subject to general jurisdiction in their state of incorporation and the state of their principal place of business. While such a decision may seem obscure and academic, Romm masterfully discusses the devastating real-world consequences of such a decision—the declining ability of the general population to hold supranational corporations accountable for their actions. In a world where the power of supranational corporations increases daily, decisions like Daimler only further empower supranational corporations by giving them a degree of sovereignty and insulating them from suit in the majority of states.
In “Invitation Accepted: Challenging Anti-Education Laws at the Intersection of Critical Race Theory, Academic Freedom, and Labor Rights,” Simon X. Cao takes a closer look at the many anti-critical race theory laws that have been introduced and passed in state legislatures. The right has been disturbingly successful in passing legislation that proscribes all historical interpretations of the United States’ founding except those that describe the founding of the U.S. as “the creation of a new state based on the universal principles in the Declaration of Independence.” Meanwhile the courts have been woefully ineffective when it comes to protecting the academic freedom of K-12 educators. While Cao’s article analyzes the acquiesce of the courts in the right’s anti-critical race theory crusade, he also provides a model for future action. Cao discusses the potential for collective action, specifically through teachers’ unions to combat anti-critical race theory laws. Cao’s article masterfully highlights the importance of collective action to combat unjust laws, particularly when the court system does not fulfill its obligations.
In this issue’s final article, “Racial Reckoning in a “White Utopia’: Oregon’s 2021 Criminal Justice Reform Bills,” Sierra Paola analyzes the flurry of criminal justice reform bills passed in Oregon in the wake of the 2020 George Floyd protests. The onslaught of criminal reform bills in Oregon was remarkable, particularly considering the racist history of the state. Paola describes in detail the different categories of bills passed—police reform bills, downstream harm reduction bills, and upstream prevention bills—as well as the different organizing strategies that led to the bills’ success. As Paola points out different categories of bills have different effects. While police reform bills focus more on eliminating “bad apples” without addressing systematic overhaul, other types of bills such as the upstream prevention bills aim to prevent people from interacting with the criminal system in the first place through decriminalization efforts, among other tactics. All the bills passed were the direct result of organizing strategies including mass demonstrations, BIPOC representation in the state legislature, and lobbying for bipartisan support. Paola’s article is a masterful analysis of the importance of organizing, and of maintaining diverse organizing strategies to achieve progressive change.
While our current economic and political systems designed to maintain a white supremacist status quo and attempts at change are repeatedly thwarted by the ineffectiveness of our elected representatives and judiciary, it is more important than ever that we look to alternative mechanisms for challenging entrenched injustice. This issue of the Review provides us not only with a demonstration of the shortfalls of our current institutions, but also a demonstration of how mass demonstrations and organizing can be engines for progressive change.