As we grapple with the fallout from the reversal of Roe v Wade, we turned to a prominent Black lawyer to help us make sense of the legal foundation that led to this landmark court ruling. Professor Lécia Vicente is a Business Law Professor and advisor with a deep understanding of risk management in different corporate cultures. We caught up with her recently after she returned from her first Lutie A. Lytle Black Women Law Faculty Workshop and Writing Retreat.
Here are edited excerpts from our Q&A:
URL MEDIA: Where were you when you heard about the reversal of Roe vs. Wade?
Professor Lécia Vicente: When I heard Roe vs. Wade was overturned I was attending the 16th Annual Lutie A Lytle Black Women Law Faculty Workshop and Writing Retreat, a collective of Black women law professors in the United States.
URL: Tell me about this gathering of Black female lawyers. Why is this such an essential lens on issues of law and justice?
VICENTE: The Lutie A. Lytle Black Women Law Faculty Workshop and Writing Retreat honors the legacy of Lutie A. Lytle—one of the very first African American lawyers in the United States. Her legacy is critically important for Black women in the United States and Black women around the world.
Black women are underrepresented in legal education and higher education, in general. And, moments like these remind us that Black women’s educational legacy is strong, remarkable, and beautiful. This collective of extraordinary women provides a crucial lens on issues of law and justice because our knowledge and representation as Black women bring an additional layer of sensitivity to the discussion about the most pressing issues of our time.
I have summed up my views on this outstanding event here.
URL: How closely are you tracking this court? A few months ago, Anita Hill penned an op-ed for URL Media, and we followed up with questions on Clarence Thomas and how she sounded the earliest alarms on him.
VICENTE: The Supreme Court of the United States has impacted many other courts around the world, particularly in countries that follow the common law tradition, that is, the law that historically emerged from courts in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, judges are not politically nominated. There is a remarkable difference between judges in the United Kingdom and the United States. United States judges are polarized because the United States of America is politically polarized. Judicial philosophies in Europe are technocratic, not political. However, courts in Poland and Hungary have taken the same view as the Supreme Court of the United States on reproductive rights.
In the current context, one of the main challenges is the definition of “individual rights.” A couple of years ago, I wrote the following article, Balancing Principles in Judicial Adjudication: The Gaps of Rationality in the Conviction of Illegal Immigrants.
In this article, I am taking a comparative approach to stress the following: some principles are off-limits. Philosophically, principles have been defined differently from rules. One significant challenge for judicial adjudication is defining and balancing individual rights in light of constitutional principles and rules.
URL: What now? What has the group in Boston resolved to do?
VICENTE: Immediately after the decision, the collective of law professors were discussing, engaging, writing op-eds, and talking to the press, productively moving forward. Here is an example, an opinion essay by Michele Goodwin, in The New York Times—No, Justice Alito, Reproductive Justice Is in the Constitution.
URL: What is the role of teaching law now in states like Louisiana?
VICENTE: I teach business law. As an instructor in the classroom, I am sensitive to the current political division surrounding these issues. I do my best to create an inclusive classroom and a safe space where all are welcome regardless of their beliefs. Law can unite, too.
Written by: Associated Contributor