“A fella got to eat,” he began; and then belligerently, “A fella got a right to eat.” “What fella?” Ma asked.
J Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
The notion that people should not be allowed to freeze to death or starve runs deep in our culture. These principles also find expression in the statutory or constitutional law of most American states and underlie the complex regulations of dozens of welfare and related programs. Despite these laws, however, millions of Americans are homeless and hungry. For them, the Declaration of Human Rights has a distant and empty ring. It is not unusual, of course, for abstract expressions of values – even when codified into law – to stand in stark contrast to reality. In the abstract, black children have a right to an equal quality of education, poor tenants have a right to procedural due process of law when threatened with eviction, and prisoners have a right to freedom from degradation and abuse. It is in the chasm between ideal expressions of rights and the reality of social deprivation that some lawyers are called upon to work. Their task is to convert the aspirational into the real, to extract an answer to the question, “What fella” has a right to eat?
The administrative hearing process is a fundamentally unfair system to low-income communities who receive public assistance benefits.
Analysis of welfare litigation to mitigate the problem of homelessness. Also explores the relationship between the volume of welfare schemes and homelessness.
Mandatory arbitration for guestworkers, a uniquely vulnerable group, will result in class inequality and worse conditions for all workers.
Voting rights advocates should explore section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act as a vehicle to combat voter intimidation.