Law in Contemporary Society

What's the deal with injustice?

-- By PatrickMarris - 19 Apr 2018

I think I hate injustice. You might say, "Doesn't the think in that first sentence kinda take away some gravity from the thing?" And I'd say, "Yeah, probably." But I think that's why I'm here.


There's a certain dignity in being called by your name. But in my eighth grade history class, Mr. Harney refused to remember Patrick. He called me Kevin. To be fair, Kevin is my uncle, and there's only a forty-year age difference between us. And to be fairer, I never corrected him. I'm what you might call easy-going. In fact, I'm what you might call easy-going to a fault. And that fault is quiet apathy. You see, I'm privileged enough to be happily apathetic, which is far from unusual among my white male middle-class contemporaries.

My story is not unique. I grew up in a middle-class family in a suburb of a small and economically-middling city. I had two parents (I still do). Each is a defense attorney for indigent clients. They are the sole reason I am not entirely subsumed by capitalist middle-class Acedia bolstered by male and white and straight privilege. So I thank them for that.

Some movement toward Action

I remember standing on a corner by a stop light in my town soon after the invasion of Iraq by all the good and wholesome countries of the world. I held a sign that said "All we are saying is give peace a chance." My dad had helped organize the protest. I don't think I really understood what I was doing. I just knew that smart people around me said bad things were happening and this is what we were going to do about it.

Perhaps more influentially, I remember going with my dad to work. I was his intern as a junior in high school. (I thought an internship might look good on a college application.) I helped him research Battered Woman Syndrome. Poor Olive had a tough life. I'm not sure stabbing her husband in the chest was ever going to fix that, but I didn't think it should've made it worse. It did though, and she's in prison. That made me mad. Not only was there enough injustice in Olive's life that she was driven to kill a person, but there was also injustice in the law's treatment of her. And it was a shame.

Of course, those two examples demonstrate the birth of two very different interests in me. But both directed me to where I am now: a generic interest in helping people escape—or at the very least combat—injustice. I thought law school would push me toward helping others, so that's why I came.

Columbia Law School and Apathy

Now, I have only completed nine tenths of my first year of law school. But that has been enough to see that law school is not a call to action. Law school, or perhaps Columbia Law School in particular, encourages just the opposite.*

Take your first year courses. Go to EIP. Find a nice firm with a low billable hours target and progressive parental leave policies. Go move some Monopoly money from one company's pocket to another's. Don't forget your hundred hours of pro bono work to fool yourself into thinking you're a force for good. Move some more money. Take your uppers—move some money—and your downers. Move some money. That's life now.

*Unless you create the Action

So I'm here for three reasons. The first is to better understand injustice: why it exists, who's affected by it, maybe even how to fight it. The second is to figure out what specific injustice it is that I most want to fight. Right now, I'm most interested in criminal defense, and I hope a summer at a Federal Defender's office will help solidify that. I also hope to learn more about union-side labor law (Stand with GWC-UAW) and the interaction between law and feminism, and I think courses with scholars in those fields will help steer my interest in those areas.

But the third reason is the most important for me. It's to figure out—on a personal level—how to maintain distance from apathy. And the solution is to find engaged and engaging mentors who can inspire me to act and guide me in action. How exactly one does that was an issue much discussed in the last two class meetings. I know I'll have to force myself to speak to and, of course, listen to professors. The listening part is not a problem. But the talking, a common enough student activity, I have always shirked to my detriment.

So the first step toward the rest of my law school career is an easy one for most. Talk to professors. Get to know them (easy) and let them get to know me (less so). Of course, at that point my future won't simply fall into place. But the direction will become multidimensional. Then I can better explore my interests and better hone the tools of the license. If only I can talk.

Apathy is easy, and the chute toward it is well enough greased for us all to slide down. Most of the people I've known in life have already hit the bottom. Mr. Harney's down there. It’s time I tell him my name's not Kevin. But it's time I do more. It's time I direct the development of my practice with purpose. I don't want to be a money mover.

And I hate injustice.


Webs Webs

r7 - 05 Jun 2018 - 01:41:47 - PatrickMarris
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