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SCritLS Salon: The Poverty Defense


April 15, 2013 7:00pm - 8:30pm

Room Offsite


The Poverty Defense: should poverty be a defense to civil and criminal liability?
In "The Poverty Defense," Michele Estrin Gilman describes the theoretical justifications for excusing poor defendants, explores the prevalence of the poverty defense in our current legal system, and suggests how use of the defense could be expanded. What justifications--coercion, "rotten social background," social forfeit, or others--are most compelling? Does the defense inevitably conflict with the dominant norms of personal autonomy and responsibility that permeate our legal system? Can the poverty defense be squared with non-retributive theories of punishment? How can judges be made to better understand the structural effects of poverty, and should they be? Some have called the poverty defense a form of redistribution--is it the judiciary's place to redistribute, or should this be left to the other branches? 
Assigned Reading (contact for a copy)
Pgs 495-510 [Introduction, Theoretical Justifications for Excusing Poor Defendants]
Pgs 546-552 [Expanding the Poverty Defense] 
Salons are meetings of the Critical Law Society where members can engage in open discussion and critique of the assigned reading. These are highly informal discussions that are meant to foster trust, community, and intellectual engagement among students.