PANEL: Professional Differences: Ethnic and Racial Diversity within the Bar from Historical Perspective
Saturday, October 24, 10:15-11:45
Chair: Clyde Spillenger, University of California at Los Angeles School of Law
This panel examines the history of ethnic and racial diversity within the American bar. Though focusing on particular times and places, all four panelists call attention to the social position of those lawyers who could not simply claim the privileges of whiteness yet were influential actors in the communities in which they practiced. From this perspective, professionalization is not analyzed in terms of how status is fixed but in terms of how it is acquired, negotiated, and represented.
Paternalism, Ethnicity and the Professionalization of the Bar in Territorial New Mexico
David Reichard, Independent Scholar
As part of a larger study of colonialism and the law in the American Southwest, this paper examines the relationship between ethnic identity, class position, gender, and the professionalization of the bar in territorial New Mexico between 1846 and the turn of the twentieth century.
As Euro-American lawyers became prominent in New Mexico, they not only built profitable practices, but also assisted merchants, capitalists, and corporate clients to extend their influence across the territory. In order to justify this role, these men asserted notions of Anglo-Saxon superiority, class position, and an overwhelming faith in an Anglo- American legal tradition as the means to bring "civilization" to New Mexico's Hispano and Native American communities. The result was a paternalistic professional identity which was inseparable from an American colonial project.
At the same time, however, some Hispano men were able to become members of the bar and represent clients before the territory's legal tribunals. Equally significant, these men became important voices for community discontent, in public and local political arenas. Like their Euro-American counterparts, Hispano lawyers also created a professional identity which emphasized paternalistic responsibility, but one which defended New Mexico's "neuvomexicano" communities in the face of Anglo racism, attempted to preserve community land and water, and deflected sustained Euro-American challenges to Hispano political influence.
Thus, while paternalism shaped the professionalization of both the Euro-American and Hispano bars, ethnicity became an equally important determinant of the form, function and historical meaning of that paternalism in a social context shaped by a long history of colonialism.
Chasing Ambulances, Chasing Law: Personal Injury Litigation in Immigrant New York
Louis Anthes, Department of History, New York University
In 1916, Elihu Root complained to members of the New York bar that "fifteen per cent of the lawyers of this city are foreign born," and he added that "Fifty per cent of the lawyers of this city are either foreign born or of foreign born parents." This paper examines who some of these "foreign born" lawyers were, where they worked, and who hired them. Specifically, it looks at Italian and Jewish immigrants, immigrant lawyers, and practices of personal injury litigation in early twentieth-century New York City.
The paper is part of a larger story about how established New York attorneys fixated on identifying "duties" in and outside of legal institutions and how Italian and Jewish immigrants resisted their efforts. This paper represents an important component to that study because it describes how through the practice of personal injury law immigrants and their attorneys articulated experiences of pain and suffering in legal terms. Immigrants thus practiced a kind of everyday law which they and their attorneys claimed could be rightfully demanded -- not dutifully avoided -- and in that development lurked a figuration of the self as being capable of legal representation, as bearing rights.
The sources of this paper include newspaper accounts, legal cases, and memoirs of notable attorneys, but also critically-examined records of claims agents working for railroad, streetcar, and subway companies. Using these materials, the paper revises our understanding of the history of "ambulance chasing" by situating the practice of tort law outside questions of professional ethics and examining its deeper social and cultural significance.
Progressive Legal Outreach and the Contact of Legal Cultures in New York City, 1896-1925: The Case of the New York Legal Aid Society
Derek Krissoff, Department of History, SUNY Buffalo
Leaders of New York's German community joined with concerned members of the local legal establishment to found the New York Legal Aid Society late in the nineteenth century. Then, as now, Legal Aid was designed to provide the poor with legal representation, but in the first three decades of its existence the Society had a related, and intriguing, agenda; it sought to lure recent arrivals to the United States into the legal mainstream. Legal Aid operatives acknowledged that alternative modes of legal and quasi-legal thought and practice -- many of them rooted in extralegal forums for dispute resolution -- flourished in ethnic New York. By encouraging newcomers to consult Legal Aid when they became embroiled in conflicts, the Society hoped to reign in this intellectual and institutional sprawl. Immigrants would, it was hoped, begin to conceive of themselves as formally "legal" actors oriented around the courts.
And yet Legal Aid was not simply an imperialist venture intent on reconfiguring outsiders' beliefs about social order. Practical concerns kept the vast majority of cases out of court, and in lieu of litigation the Society's lawyers developed a method of dispute resolution which consisted of calling both parties together, conducting an "impartial" investigation of the facts, and hammering out a solution. The system of arbitration Legal Aid embraced was not adversarial; in this respect it more closely resembled rabbinical courts, mutual aid societies, and boards of conciliation developed in the garment industry than it did the system of civil courts. It therefore seems fair to describe the relationship between Legal Aid and the immigrant community as one in which influence and power flowed in both directions. I conclude by suggesting that the New York Legal Aid Society was one of severable permeable points of contact between Progressive-era cultures of dispute resolution, and that through the study of these forums historians might construct new models to explain legal change during this period.
Northern Urban Black Lawyering in the Early to Middle Twentieth Century: Raymond Pace Alexander's Self-Fashioning
Kenneth Mack, Department of History, Princeton University
This paper is a portion of a larger study of the professionalization of Northern, urban black lawyers in the early to middle part of the twentieth century. The larger study analyzes black lawyers' oft-stated vision of their professional mission -- civil rights advocacy -- and its relation to the quotidian world of law practice in which they found themselves, focusing on Raymond and Sadie Alexander, a husband-and-wife team of black lawyers who practiced in Philadelphia.
Civil rights was not a self-evident concept for early to mid-twentieth- century black lawyers, but rather was an idea that was given substance by these lawyers' law practices and professional activities. In the 1920s black lawyers began to solicit a regular clientele among the growing urban African-American populations in cities like Philadelphia, and by the 1930s had organized themselves into local and national bar associations and had gained accreditation for the largest source of black lawyers, Howard Law School. By the first decade after World War II, a number of black civil rights attorneys, including Charles Houston, Raymond Alexander and Thurgood Marshall, had become influential figures in postwar liberal politics.
The paper will focus on the early decades of Raymond Alexander's law practice in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and his initial conception of his role in the legal profession and in Philadelphia's black community. Using Alexander's autobiographical writings, magazine articles and materials from his early cases, this paper will analyze Alexander's self-conception as a lawyer in the period, the roots of that conception in the social conditions of an early twentieth-century urban black lawyer, and how and why that conception changed over the course of the first several decades of his law practice.
Comment: Robert W. Gordon, Yale Law School
Although some psychiatrists promoted the concept of sexual psychopath, most regarded it and laws that relied on it with distinct ambivalence. They attacked definitions of sexual psychopathy as vague and controversial, challenged the premise on which the state relied, namely, that minor sex crime heralded a propensity for more serious sexual violence or murder, and questioned their ability to cure sex criminals. Most psychiatrists were reluctant heroes in the fight against sex crime, largely pulled into the criminal justice system and granted authority as a result of the media and politicians' appropriation and construction of psychiatric expertise.
This paper will examine the relationship
between psychiatrists and the sexual pyschopath statutes. I will focus on
psychiatrists response to the drafting and enactment of the laws, their
role in the limited application of the laws and, finally, their
contribution to the repeal of the statutes in the 1960s and 1970s. These
topics raise questions about the nature of expertise in the mid-twentieth
century United States, the relationship between experts and the knowledge
they generate and the role that cultural forces rather than ambitious
practitioners play in the construction of expertise. These questions are
particularly timely in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's 1997 decision
in Kansas v. Hendricks, which has opened the way for 'sexual predator'
laws that echo sexual psychopath statutes in their appropriation of
controversial psychiatric expertise as a means of enacting harsher
punishment of sex offenders.
The Chair, Randall McGowen, Department of History, University of Oregon