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December 18, 2002

Injustice or Inequity

I'll get down off of my SUV-bashing high horse now. Instead of acting all self-righteous about the fact that I don't drive an SUV, I'll beg for your sympathy as I try to write a new essay to get financial aid for law school. Here's the challenge of the day:

Identify a domestic or international situation where you perceive there to be great injustice or inequity and briefly describe the factors that you believe created and/or have perpetuated that condition. How do you believe being awarded the Public Interest/Public Service scholarship at Americna University Washington College of Law, and a law degree, would help you constructively address the challenges presented by this situation?

So where do I start? Environmental problems caused by the U.S.'s refusal to participate in the Kyoto Protocol or, locally, in our refusal to raise fuel-efficiency standards and really hold automakers to them? Where's the justice in allowing the people of the U.S. to do more to destroy the global environment than anyone else on the planet? So fine, it's an obvious injustice based on a great inequity, but how would a law degree help me "address the challenges presented by this situation"? Would it be theoretically possible to mount a class action suit against the EPA for failing to protect the environment? Or against Congress for failing to pass laws that would enable the EPA to do its job?

Another great injustice involves campaign finance reform: Congress passed the "Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002" early in the year, but now the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) is trying to gut the law by not enforcing it. It seems most parties agree that the way campaigns are financed is bad for Democracy, but critics of reform argue that limits on the amount of money we can give to politicians are limits on our freedom of speech. What seems to me an obvious solution to this conundrum is publicly-funded elections. If taxpayers picked up the bills for campaigns, those campaigns would cost a lot less, be open to more candidates, and would be much less influenced by special interests. But what would a law degree allow me to do about this? I could lobby. I could work with legislators to craft policy on this subject. I could work for Public Citizen or Public Campaign or those kinds of organizations to see that these laws are enforced. Are there other things I could do?

What about people who can't afford health care in our society? What about the problem of underfunded schools and the danger that school vouchers will only widen the gap between good (wealthy) and bad (poor) schools? Or what about capital punishment? Is an eye for an eye really a good way to achieve justice? Must focus....

The problem is not that I don't see issues to write about. The problem is that I have only vague ideas of how becoming a lawyer would enable me to "constructively address the problems created by" these situations. Lawyers don't just sue and litigate—they also lobby and negotiate and write policy and advise politicians and other policy-makers. I want to do any and all of that, but I'm not sure I have a concrete idea of precisely how I'll do so. I'll work on it...

Posted 11:22 AM | Comments (1) | law school

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