ORCID (Links to author’s additional scholarship at ORCID.org)
This Symposium invites reflection on whether the Anthropology of Law has “any space left for the content of rules” at a time when the concerns of legal anthropologists have largely shifted to processes, materials, and practices that are “adjacent to law.”1 Taking the jury system as an illustrative case, this Essay advocates for the relevance and value of the anthropological study of rules, their content, and their effects. Looking in particular at antidiscrimination rules derived from Batson v. Kentucky,2 decided in 1986, it argues that a sociolegal, ethnographic approach to how lawyers perpetuate discrimination in jury selection offers insight into everyday legal practice that is critical to enacting impactful jury reform—that is, to making better rules. Part I of this Essay provides background on the Batson doctrine with attention to its misguided aspiration to race neutrality and emphasis on racial animus as the cause of disparate empanelment. Part II shows how ethnography leads to a more sophisticated, empirically grounded understanding of these issues, casting new light on racial and other forms of exclusion, including exclusion based on socioeconomic status and previous contact with the legal system. Part III makes the case that sociolegal approaches to jury selection are invaluable for illuminating the effects of, and reformative pathways for, antidiscrimination law.
Alabama Law Review
Anna Offit, Antidiscrimination Law Through a Sociolegal Lens, 74 Ala. L. Rev. 753 (2022)