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12:00pm - Speaker Series: ABF Doctoral Fellows

  • When: September 18, 2019, 12–1:30 pm
  • Where: ABF Woods Conference Room, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 4th floor, Lakeside, Chicago, IL 60611

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ABF Presents its Incoming Doctoral Fellows

The Balancing Act: How Antecedent Experiences and Social Support Systems Affect Students’ Sense of Belonging in Law School

Recent research has shown the importance of belonging in law students’ performance and satisfaction outcomes, but how do law school environments and experiences affect, moderate, and support students’ sense of belonging? Drawing from her dissertation, this talk explores Liz’s proposed balancing act minoritized law students must perform as they navigate their way through law school and negotiate their sense of belonging. Using the 2018 LSSSE data, Liz’s work proposes that the balancing act is critical to students’ law school experiences where racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation differences persist regardless of structural diversity; thus, highlighting the importance of understanding how social forces come into play in one of the most selective and elite education programs.

Elizabeth (Liz) Bodamer is a doctoral candidate in sociology at Indiana University Bloomington. Her research focuses on inequality in the legal profession and legal education. Her dissertation, “The Balancing Act: The Experiences of Minoritized Students in Law School,” uses quantitative data to examine how experiences of bias and discrimination, diversity and support systems affect law students’ sense of belonging. Elizabeth has presented at the National Association of Law Student Affairs Professionals (NALSAP) and the Law and Society Association Annual Conference. She was also a panelist at the Indiana State Bar Association during the summer of 2018.  She received her M.A. in sociology from Indiana University, her J.D. from Indiana University Maurer School of Law, and her B.A. in sociology from the University of Notre Dame. As a Ph.D. student at Indiana, she was also the Director of Student Affairs at Indiana University Maurer School of Law for four years.


Adjudicating the Right to Parent: The Management & Evaluation of “Risky Parents” in a California Child Welfare Court

My dissertation research explores how ideologies of “minimally-fit” parenthood are constructed and contested through juvenile court dependency proceedings. My analysis focuses on the experiences of 40 parents involved in juvenile dependency proceedings and 18 months of fieldwork in a Northern California courthouse. I contend that interactions between parents and attorneys, social workers, judges and interpreters inform how ideologies of “minimally fit” parenthood are co-constructed in the process of adjudicating cases of alleged child abuse or neglect. My work highlights the material, symbolic, and social phenomena that are identified by judges, attorneys, and social workers as demonstrating parental capacity for reform and how these findings are converted into legal evidence to be used in case management. I argue that language practices including how individuals speak about cases, how they linguistically challenge findings, and how cases are read, written, and interpreted significantly shapes the accessibility and realization of justice for families in juvenile dependency courts. This presentation will focus on preliminary findings concerning the ways in which language access, economic barriers, and racialized biases inform evaluations of risk-to-children in juvenile dependency cases. 

 Jessica Lopez-Espino is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at New York University. Her dissertation, "Anxieties of Ethnolinguistic Disorder: Adjudicating the Right to Parent," analyzes the interactions between parents and court actors involved in child maltreatment hearings to determine how ideologies of parenthood shape legal evaluations of low income parents’ ability to successfully parent and maintain custody of their children. Her work draws on anthropology of law, linguistic anthropology, and critical race theory to explore the particular experiences of Spanish-dominant Latinx litigants in juvenile courts, the growing trend of Latinx involvement in child welfare, and the role of language access in litigating the rights of parents in juvenile courts. Jessica is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for doctoral research. She received her B.A. in Anthropology and Applied Language Studies from University of California, Berkeley and her MPhil in Anthropology at New York University. Prior to returning to graduate school, she worked as a college counselor and as a legal assistant for asylum cases. 


Beyond Administrative Sanction: Criminal Prosecution of Prisoners with Mental Illness

Estimates reveal that in 2014, there were nearly 400,000 individuals with severe psychiatric disease in U.S. prisons and jails—ten times the number of patients committed to state psychiatric hospitals. My research examines a socio-legal consequence of this carceral configuration: the criminal prosecution of prisoners with mental illness for their misconduct behind bars. Criminal prosecution of prisoners often leads to new convictions and extensions of criminal sentences. To date, however, there has been no empirical study of the scope of this phenomenon or the social mechanisms that animate it. In this talk, I describe my mixed-methods dissertation project that investigates three questions: 1) how the criminal prosecution of prisoners with mental illness occurs; 2) how frequently it is happening; and 3) why correctional systems use criminal courts, in addition to the available internal administrative disciplinary processes, to manage misconduct of prisoners with mental illness. Drawing on my preliminary findings, I contend that both the legislative architecture of the criminal referral of prisoners and the physical architecture of prisons have changed in the past two decades in ways that may place prisoners with mental illness at greater risk of criminal sanction.

Ari Tolman is J.D./Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Northwestern University, where she is a Law and Science Fellow, a Graduate Fellow in Legal Studies, and a Mellon Foundation Graduate Fellow in Science Studies. Her research is focused on the intersection of law and health, with a particular emphasis on science and medicine in the criminal justice system. Her dissertation, “Criminal Prosecution of Prisoners with Mental Illness,” examines the scope, frequency and process by which prisoners with mental illness are charged with new crimes while incarcerated in the United States. Her scholarship has been published in peer-review and law review journals, including The Lancet, Schizophrenia Bulletin, and Northwestern University Law Review. Ari received her B.A. in Sociology and Neuroscience and Behavior from Wesleyan University in 2010 and her M.A. in Sociology from Northwestern in 2015. Prior to attending graduate school, she worked as Program's Director at Shining Hope for Communities in Nairobi, Kenya, as a post-graduate fellow at the ACLU of Michigan, and as a research assistant at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine. As a law student at Northwestern, Ari worked as a legal intern at the Uptown People’s Law Center and at the Children and Family Justice Center of Northwestern Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic. She also served as Editor-in-Chief of the Northwestern University Law Review from 2017-2018.

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