General Studies 197
Controversial Issues in Minority Communities

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Instructor: Thomas Andrews

Office: 312 William H. Gates Hall
Office Hours: MTTh 3:30-5
Telephone: 543-2644

Meeting Time & Location

The class will meet Tuesday afternoon from 3:30 to 4:20. Our default classroom will be Room 119 in the new law school building: William H. Gates Hall. Occasionally we may meet elsewhere.  One class will be held in the King County Courthouse, in downtown Seattle, in the courtroom of Judge Richard Jones, from 4-5 p.m.  This should give you time to get downtown from the campus if you have another class until 3:20.   Directions will be distributed.  We may have another class downtown in the courtroom of Judge Richardo Martinez in the Federal Courthouse.  That will also begin at 4 pm for the same reasons.

Course Overview & Expectations


GEN ST 197 H


This seminar is designed to explore how individuals in and out of particular communities form opinions about controversial issues that affect those communities.  We will explore what information and values are available to people inside and outside particular communities, and we will focus on how you can help influence public and private discussions in a constructive way.   In particular, we will explore what role the law has to play in addressing and/or resolving these issues.

We will examine such topics as wrongful conviction, racial profiling, migrant farmwork, drugs and sentencing, homelessness, Native American land claims, and the problems facing immigrants in the wake of 9/11. 

Most of the classes will be taught by guest speakers who have professional experience confronting and dealing with the issues we will discuss.   All of the speakers are lawyers, although one of them is currently a federal judge and another a state judge.  Several of us are fulltime law professors.   Each of us will bring to the class his or her perspective on the particular way that lawyers, and others involved in the legal system in this country, influence the way that we all talk and think about controversial issues. We will compare “lawyer talk” with the way the media, and the affected people in the community, describe and talk about the issues.  We will try to distinguish fact from opinion and from “urban legend.”  We will also try to identify the different value systems that inform people’s judgments about the meaning of “facts.”

As students, I hope you will bring your experiences from your communities, prior schooling, and work to bear on our discussions.  Participation in class is key.  I want everyone in this class to engage and talk during our brief time together.  Only if you ask questions and comment on what others have to say will you make this seminar the most useful learning experience that it can be for everyone, including the speakers.  (You may need to interrupt speakers, on occasion, because each is passionate and very knowledgeable about the subject that he or she is presenting.  I hope you will do that so that we can get to the heart of some very difficult issues.)

All of the topics that we will discuss are too large and complex to be thoroughly covered in a single class.  One of my goals is to help you learn about the resources available here at the University and in the surrounding community for further exploration of the issues and topics that interest you. 


To earn credit for the course you will need to:

1. Attend class. 

Occasional absences are permitted but if you miss more than three classes without permission, you risk being denied credit.

2. Do the reading assignments.

There is no required text or course pack.   There will be no exam for this course even though one may be “scheduled” by the central scheduler.  I will, however, require readings each week.  Required readings will be short.   Assignments will be posted on this webpage and I will also try to send you notice when a new posting has been made.  I will also post links to additional reading in case you are interested and have additional time.  The URL for the course webpage is:

3. Keep and turn in a Journal. 

The journal should record your reactions to and reflections on the readings, classes and topics we discuss.   You should feel free to include questions that the material assigned or class lectures and discussion raise for you, even if you have no answers.  (One of the most important lessons we can learn is what the questions are.)  You will quickly discover that many of the guest lecturers do not have satisfactory answers to many of the questions they raise.  Your entries need not be long, but I expect at least one page per class (200-300 words). I would also like the journal entries you turn in to be something more than notes you took of the reading you did or the presentation you heard.  Try to give me some personal reactions to or reflections on what you read or heard: something of yourself.  And please try to do it in complete sentences.  My strong preference is that you maintain and submit your journal in electronic format.  This facilitates storage, reconstruction if there is a question about submission, and editing (by you).  But I will accept handwritten journals.  If you miss a class, your journal should contain your reactions to the readings assigned for that class.

Journals should be handed in at the end of the quarter (preferably electronically).   I would like your journals by the last day of the examination period (end of finals week).  There will be no final examination for the class.

4.  Write a Review Essay

            In addition to the Journal, I want each of you to do a 3-5 page “review essay.”   The “review” should be of some book, short story, play, movie or TV show that relates to (a) some controversial issue in a minority community and (b) the law.   This assignment is intended to be open ended.  I am looking for your personal reflections on the piece of writing or movie-making that you pick as you explore how it relates to the theme of this course.   Here are a few ideas on how to approach the assignment:  What problem or issue is depicted?  What perspective was brought to the problem or issue?  Was there a resolution proposed or hinted at?  Did you find the resolution offered satisfactory?   Unsatisfactory?  Why or why not?  Like you Journals, the Review Essay should be handed in at the end of the quarter (preferably electronically).   I would like it by the last day of the examination period (end of finals week).


Page contents:

Class Assignments

General Studies 197, Spring
Controversial Issues in Minority Communities

Class Assignments

Class 1: March 28, 2006: The Gap between the Rich and the Poor

Tom Andrews, Faculty, UW School of Law

For the first class on Tuesday, please go the following website, where you will find a chart containing extensive data about the World's Population, by country. First read the explanatory text that is found on the chart. Then examine and familiarize yourself with the data. In particular, look at the data for the following countries or regions: (a) China; (b) Japan; (c) India; (d) Russia; (e) Africa; (f) Sub Saharan Africa; and (g) the US. Compare at least the following for each of these regions: (i) population; (ii) population per square mile, (iii) infant mortality rate, and (iv) GNI PPP/capita. Figure out what "GNI PPP/capita" is. The chart is at the following website:

Population Reference Bureau

After you have done this reading, which shouldn't take you so very long, come prepared to discuss the following questions:

1. What relevance (if any) does this data have for Controversial Issues in Minority Communities (the subject of this course)? Make a note of your thoughts to share in class.

2. What relevance (if any) does Law, and in particular, US Law have to the data set out in the Chart? Make a note of your thoughts to share in class.

As further background for class on Tuesday, if you have time, visit the two website below.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Carter Center

Class 2: April 4: Reforms to Protect Against Conviction of the Innocent: Mistaken Eyewitness Identification. 

Jackie McMurtrie, Faculty, University of Washington School of Law

To prepare for class please read Prof. McMurtrie's article, published last fall in the American Criminal Law Review: THE ROLE OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES IN PREVENTING WRONGFUL CONVICTION

If you have extra time, you might find it valuable to visit the Innocence Project website and explore a bit.

Professor McMurtrie has provided her powerpoint and also an "eye witness" exercise.  It is designed to be integrated with the powerpoint, but until I get technical help it is not.  So first click on the eye witness exercise and watch the film.  Then click on Prof. McMurtrie's Powerpoint.  When you get to the slide that should begin the film, hit the page down key on your keyboard (or if you have a roller on your mouse, roll to next page) and you should be able to continue the powerpoint. 

Class 3: April 11: Immigration Reform

 Andrew Chan, Attorney with MacDonald,Hoague & Bayless 

In preparation for this class please read the following materials in the order listed:

(1)  Article from Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)

 (2)  Summary of Specter Proposal

(3) Article from San Francisco Chronicle by Dianne Feinstein

 (4)  Article from Seattle Times by Froma Harrop

While you are reading these materials, ponder the following questions:

1.  What do you make of the proposed Sensenbrenner "enforcement" provisions calling for the construction of security fencing on the U.S./Mexico border, employer sanctions for hiring illegal workers, and the criminalization of unlawful status?  Would these enforcement provisions effectively address the rampant flow of illegal immigration?


2.  What do you make of the proposed implementation of a "guest worker program" that would provide undocumented workers with a path to U.S. permanent legal residence (green card) and eventually U.S. citizenship? 


3.  Which immigration reform bill (Sensenbrenner or Specter) do you think would provide better overall security for the United States?



Class 4:  April 18, 2006: Drugs, Sentencing & Community Implications:

Judge Richard Jones, King County Superior Court

Our April 18 class will meet in the courtroom of Judge Jones in the King County Courthouse at 4 pm rather than 3:30.  The courthouse is located at
516 Third Ave, downtown Seattle.  From the UW, the best way to get there is by bus.  On University Way(the Ave) take any of the express buses downtown (Nos. 71, 72, or 73) and go to the James Street stop on Second Ave.    Then walk east a block on James to Third and James.  The Courthouse is on the east side of the street on Third Ave.  Enter the courthouse and go through the metal detector. (Leave any knives etc. home, because you will not be permitted into the courtroom area with any weapons.)  After you go through the screening, take the elevator to the 7th Floor and proceed to Courtroom E-746.   There may be a hearing or trial going on when you arrive.  You are free to enter, sit down and observe.   Remember to take off hats and turn off cell phones, etc., when entering into courtroom.

For additional directions, click on the link below.

Directions to King County Courthouse

For background on Judge Jones, you can read

WSTLA's 2004 Judge of the Year: Honorable Richard Jones

Then please visit the website for the Sentencing Project. The Sentencing Project, incorporated in 1986, has become a national leader in the development of alternative sentencing programs and in research and advocacy on criminal justice policy. Explore the website and familiarize yourself with the issues related to sentencing that are of concern to the criminal justice system. Think of some questions to ask Judge Jones related to sentencing practices and laws.

The Sentencing Project



Class 5: April 25, 2006: Corporations and Human Rights in Africa

Joseph Mwaura, Lecturer at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland and

currently a Visiting Scholar, UW School of Law

In preparation for this class, please go to Behind the Mask: The Real Face of Corporate Responsibility, and read as much of the Report as you can.  

Then consider the following questions:

1. What legal duties do corporations currently have regarding human rights?

2. What factors are driving the perceived increased need for observance of human rights, and accountability for human rights violations, by corporations?

3. To what extent do corporations violate human rights in Africa and why do they get away with the violations?

4. To what extent are corporate codes of conduct effective in holding corporations to account for human rights violations?

5. What legal duties should corporations have and how should such duties be enforced?

6. Who should have the responsibility of regulating corporations and enforcing their duties towards human rights (host countries/national governments, regional organizations (the African Union etc), home countries - where corporations have a seat, or the UN)?

 If you missed this class, or attended it and would like to review

Prof. Mwaura's Powerpoint click on the link..


 Class 6: May 2, 2006:  The Problems of Homelessness

Ishbel Dickens, Columbia Legal Services

In preparation for class, please read the following:

Million Dollar Murray

Jones v. Los Angeles (April 2006)



Class 7:  May 9, 2006:  The HIV/AIDS Pandemic: Not in My Backyard?

Patricia Kuszler & Beth Rivin
, Faculty, UW School of Law

In preparation for this class, please do the following:

Read the first 17 pages and the last 3 pages of the UN/WHO AIDS Epidemic Update 2005.  Then skim the rest of the report to get a sense of the scope of the epidemic.

Second, read the Human Rights Watch report titled ABUSING THE USER:


Come to class ready to discuss the issues raised by these two reports.



Class 8:  May 16, 2006:  Culture, Marriage & Law:  Polygamy Anyone?

Clark Lombardi, UW Law Faculty.  You might be interested to note that in addition to his law degree, Professor Lombardi has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies.

In preparation for this class, please read the following materials:

Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878)

Beeby, Study Recommends Repealing Polygamy Ban in Canada, (Canada Press, Jan. 12, 2006)

Brooke, Utah Struggles with Revival of Polygamy (NY Times, Aug. 23, 1998).

Then consider and come to class prepared to discuss the following questions:

Does the health of society depend on the strength of its families?

Is a particular type of family structure better for its members or for society as a whole?

Should polygamy be legal?


Class 9: May 23, 2006:  Current Issues in Drug Reform

D'Adre Cunningham (Attorney with King County Defender Association)

In preparation for this class, please first look at the King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project Website.  Read what it says there on the first page about the "Drug Policy Project."  Next, click on the link for "race and class" on the left, and read the information captioned: "Drug Policy Project Task Force on Racial and Class Disparities."  After you have done that, return to the KCBA Drug Policy Project website (by clicking back);  open the drop down menu (top left corner) for "Research Reports;" and select "2005 Major Report."  

That will yield a Report that is roughly 150 pages in length.   You could learn a lot if you read it all, but my guess is that this would exceed two hours for most of you. (It surely would for me.)  So spend two hours familiarizing yourself with the report and reading portions that particularly interest you. 

In connection with this class, you might also find it interesting to visit the Seattle City Council Marijuana Policy Review Panel


Class 10: May 30, 2006:  Environmental Justice

Michael Robinson-Dorn, UW Law Faculty.

For this class, please start by reading the following excerpt titled “Perspectives on Environmental Law and Policy,” from the book PLATER et al,  ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND POLICY (3d ed ASPEN 2004).  If you have time after that, read the following excerpt on Environmental Justice & Environmental Racism.

Beyond this, if you are interested in doing a little research on your own, here is a useful website:

American Bar Association Environmental justice Website   

After doing as much of the foregoing reading as you can, please give some thoughts to the following questions:

1)       What is Environmental Justice (EJ)?

2)       What are EJ's historical, ethical and legal underpinnings?

3)       How does EJ differ from environmental protection, or environmental law with its goals of preserving and protecting the environment and the integrity of ecological systems for current and future generations?  Is this differentiation necessary?  Helpful? 

4)       Identify at least one local, one national and one international

example of environmental injustice and consider the factors that have produced/resulted in, and/or are continuing to result in this inequity.   What barriers stand in the way of resolving the inequity?

          Should we be concerned with resolving the inequity?      

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Last modified: 5/30/2006 2:09 PM