Writer, advocate and teacher Leigh Bienen’s digital projects are lenses for viewing extraordinary periods in our past.
Diverse: Issues In Higher Education recently named Jamelia Morgan, professor of law and the Director of the Center for Racial and Disability Justice, as one of its 2024 Emerging Scholars who are making a mark in the academy.
In the profile, Morgan mentioned mentors who have informed her career in law and academia, like OSU’s Amna Akbar, UCLA’s Devon Carbado, Harvard’s Guy Charles. In an interview with Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, she added that the scholarship of Columbia’s Kimberle Crenshaw, Yale Law’s Judith Resnick, and Reva Siegel have been role models for how she thinks about her work.
Reflecting on her proteges, Morgan said, “I want to make law school a space that’s welcoming to everyone and allows everyone to show up authentically. That means helping students figure out their path and create the career that they want on their terms.” She added that she wants to shift away from past mentoring models that showed students how to fit the mold or get a specific credential for a particular position. “I try to help them navigate and resist where they can so that they can show up as their full selves.”
“Congratulations to Professor Jamelia Morgan on this well-deserved recognition of her extraordinary contributions through her scholarship, leadership, teaching and service,” Dean Hari Osofsky said of the award. “Her brilliant and impactful scholarship examining the intersections of race, gender, disability, and criminal law and punishment and leadership as founding Director of the interdisciplinary Center for Racial and Disability Justice make an important difference.”
Morgan said the recognition is a humbling honor. “I’m somewhat angsty in the sense [that] if you get an award, you have to live up to it. I see it as an important moment to pause and be grateful, but also a guidepost for, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ It’s a reminder that the work matters and that there’s a way to spread the word and to try to foment change.”
What is next? Morgan has plans to write her first book on how society responds to disorder, while continuing to focus her research on “the endurable injustices that I’ve been obsessed with, whether it’s policing or punishment systems.” She wants to focus on discerning how her work can make such systems less harmful. “I think it’s a pretty modest goal, but still a really hard one.”
She’s also working on several projects on the criminalization of disability, including examining how the Fourth Amendment regulates emergency psychiatric holds. “As a legal scholar, I’m acutely aware of how the law can protect the rights of people with disabilities in law enforcement encounters,” she said. Future work analyzes how criminal law doctrine responds to people with disabilities, both defendants and victims. “I can occupy myself for several years just thinking about disability as a legal category, particularly in criminal law.”
Morgan adds that her work is “never an individual effort,” listing professional influences like her colleagues Kate Caldwell and Jordyn Jensen in the Center for Racial and Disability Justice. “Just the chance to work alongside them has been a real privilege.”
She said scholars must ensure they partner with individuals with lived experience in their work and their research. “My ethos is very much informed by people who I’ve worked for, alongside of, and within prisons and low-income communities. I think at the center, we’re trying to incorporate those practices into how we do work, too.”
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Chief Justice John Roberts recently appointed Professor Zachary Clopton to the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules. This role will help the Supreme Court shape the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.