I am an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Connecticut School of Law, where I teach Criminal Law and Critical Race Theory. My scholarship spans issues at the intersections of race, disability, criminal law, and punishment. My current research examines the development of disability as a legal category, disability as an identity in prison and jails, and the criminalization of dissent and non-normative identities and expressions. My additional research projects have involved exploring the ways in which popular movements, political discourse, and legal debates involving issues related to race-conscious remedies influence the language and rhetorical devices judges use in court opinions and how such usage affects case outcomes.
Disparate Impact and Voting Rights: How Objections to Impact-Based Claims Prevent Plaintiffs From Prevailing in Cases Challenging New Forms of Disenfranchisement
Abstract | This article documents the spillover effects of the politics of disparate impact in cases challenging new forms of vote denial under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The paper argues that within the vote denial context, these spillover effects have heightened the evidentiary burdens for plaintiffs. In particular, judicial consternation over the constitutionality of claims based in part on disparate impact—given, for example, express statutory mandates against entitlements to proportional racial representation—have both resulted in a confused and disorganized body of case law and have, most troublingly, increased the plaintiffs’ burden under Section 2’s results-based test. These spillover effects have impeded the ability of plaintiffs to challenge new forms of vote denial—a legal claim that does not involve the constitutional and statutory objections to impact-based claims that arise in vote dilution cases. These protections are even more important after the Supreme Court invalidated Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act—the coverage formula underlying Section 5’s preclearance requirements in Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013).
Building on existing scholarship calling for a distinct test for Section 2 vote denial claims, this paper develops a new test that more adequately captures the nature of the interests at stake in these challenges to new forms of exclusion from, or inequalities of opportunity within, the political process. By enabling plaintiffs to challenge new forms of exclusion and inequality in the political process, yet recognizing the interest of government in managing elections in an era characterized by huge advances in racial progress, the after establishes a framework to aid plaintiffs in challenging discriminatory policies and practices that threaten to forestall or rollback the progress made under the Voting Rights Act in a post-Shelby County world.
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One Not Like the Other: An Examination of the Use of the Affirmative Action Analogy in Reasonable Accommodation Cases under the Americans with Disabilities Act
Abstract | This article will analyze the use of the affirmative action term and analogy over time and attempt to decipher meaning from its use in reasonable accommodations cases under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specifically, the article will demonstrate that references to affirmative action in reasonable accommodation cases are frequently misplaced and seldom accompanied by sufficient analysis to justify the use of the analogy in the particular case. Furthermore, the specific meaning of the affirmative action analogy varies across court opinions—a fact not often recognized by courts referencing the analogy in the course of evaluating reasonable accommodation claims. Ultimately, this article will demonstrate that the use of the affirmative action analogy reveals judicial disagreement on the question of whether some reasonable accommodation claims amount to “preferential treatment,” and whether preferential treatment is itself permitted under the ADA.
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Caged In: The Devastating Harm of Solitary Confinement on Prisoners with Physical Disabilities
Abstract | This article discusses the challenges facing prisoners with physical disabilities in solitary confinement. It spotlights the dangers for blind people, Deaf people, people who are unable to walk without assistance, and people with other physical disabilities who are being held in small cells for 22 hours a day or longer, for days, months, and even years. Solitary confinement is a punishing environment that endangers the well-being of people with physical disabilities and often violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The article's revelations about the particular harms of solitary on people with physical disabilities shows the urgent need for the law to better address the problems they face and the development of solutions to those problems.
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