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Dean's Lectures by Elaine Jones and Lauren Edelman, Apr. 4 and 5

Two upcoming Dean's Lectures at YLS will address the costs of social justice and how law forms in the workplace.

Elaine Jones, President and Director-Counsel Emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, will speak on Monday, April 4, 2005, 4:30 p.m., in Room 127. The title of her talk is "Judicial Courage: Skelly Wright's Example."

Lauren Edelman, professor of law and sociology and the director of the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California, Berkeley, will speak on Tuesday, April 5, 2005, at 4:30 p.m. in the Faculty Lounge. She will speak about "The Endogeneity of Law: Judicial Deference to Institutionalized Employment Practices."


Jones says that her talk will deal with "Judges like Skelly Wright, who care about issues of human rights and social justice, and the price they pay." Skelly Wright served on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana from 1949 to 1962, and he played a key role in forcing the desegregation of public facilities in and around New Orleans, including the public schools. At the same time, he was ostracized by the white community in Louisiana and, according to Jones, "basically drummed out of the state."

Jones says that Wright's career serves as an excellent example of the struggles that lawyers committed to principles of social justice often face. She points to the fact that civil rights lawyers are often considered less qualified than other lawyers to be judges, because they are viewed as too partisan.

Jones herself has been a national leader in the advancement of civil rights. She was the first black woman to graduate from the University of Virginia School of Law, and in a thirty-year career in the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, defended death row inmates, argued employment discrimination cases, and was a legislative advocate. But Jones argues that the endeavor to use the law to enact social change carries a price. "Skelly Wright reflects that price," says Jones.


Edelman won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000 for her work on the formation of law in the workplace, and she served as president of the Law & Society Association. Her talk at YLS will explain how organizations play a role in the development of civil rights law through the ways they enact the often vague laws regulating employment.

She writes, "In conventional accounts of law and organizations, law is treated as exogenous to organizations; that is, law is formed prior to and relatively autonomously from organizational actors, structures, and institutions. Drawing on neo-institutional organization theory in sociology, I propose an alternative model of law, which treats law as endogenous to organizations; in this view, law takes shape within the social fields that it seeks to regulate."

Edelman will review some of her earlier empirical work on the subject and also "present preliminary findings from a new study of judicial deference to institutionalized organizational practices."