Law + Policy

A Socially Distant Town Hall with Senator Nancy Skinner

On Thursday evening, March 19, California State Senator and UC Berkeley alumna Nancy Skinner held a phone-in town hall for constituents, focused on the shelter in place orders. As she was about to introduce her guest experts from Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, she interrupted herself with the news that Governor Gavin Newsom had just announced a statewide shelter-in-place order, raising the stakes of the meeting.

From Prison to Ph.D.: Berkeley’s Formerly Incarcerated Students

JAMES CARLIN WATCHED A SMALL AIRPLANE snake over the field beyond the barbed wire fence at Deuel Vocational Institution, a state prison in Tracy, about 60 miles east of Berkeley. He’d seen the plane before. It came at daybreak, flying low and trailing behind it a plume of chemicals. As his years in prison passed, Carlin began to notice a pattern. Each time the plane came, red bumps blistered the skin of the men lifting weights on the yard. Carlin had read environmentalist Rachel Carson; he thought the chemicals and the rashes must be related. Then it got worse.

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

College Athletes Could Soon Cash In

IN NOVEMBER OF 2015, A FEW DAYS BEFORE the Big Game between UC Berkeley and Stanford, California State Sen. Nancy Skinner attended an Oakland Rotary Club meeting. That day, as it often does, the club was discussing athletics, and it had invited antitrust economist Andy Schwarz, a longtime critic of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Schwarz, “a Stanford guy,” shared the stage with the Cal Band, which played Cal songs, before he began his presentation.

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

Berkeley Law Says Goodbye to Boalt Name

ON THE MORNING OF THURSDAY, JANUARY 30, UC carpenter Joe Poppi chiseled away the name “Boalt Hall” from the façade of the UC Berkeley law school. It was the culmination of a long debate after revelations surfaced about the building’s namesake’s racism. 

“There is no evidence that John Boalt himself … would remotely have sup­ported the inclusive law school … we are so proud of today.” —Dean Erwin
Chemerinsky

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

News Flash: Weed Isn’t Exactly Legal.

NOT FAR FROM THE OREGON BORDER, in the serendipitously named city of Weed, the Hi-Lo Café boasts a display of cannabis-themed souvenirs. Among the buttons and baseball caps are Bic lighters that urge smokers to “Enjoy Weed,” “Got Weed?” coffee mugs, and refrigerator magnets bearing the legend “Weed: Keep On Rollin’.” There’s more such merch at the Weed Store, where shoppers can score a hat that reads “Weed Police,” or a T-shirt for the fanciful University of Weed, “A Place of Higher Learning.”

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

“Like Crawling on Broken Glass”: The Aftermath of Gun Violence

When Richard Livingston Jr. got a call from a relative in January 2015 telling him that his 20-year-old son Richard Dejion Livingston III, known as Rickey, had been murdered, he raced to the county morgue to confirm it for himself. He hadn’t heard anything from law enforcement, and he refused to believe it until he got official word. After banging desperately on a door for 45 minutes, he was told that he wouldn’t be let in and that he’d have to go to the police department for information.

Greetings From Atascadero: A Reporter Confronts His Facebook Foes

This is the third installment in our series, Greetings from California, in which intrepid writers file dispatches exploring the untrodden, unappreciated, or just unusual corners of the Golden State. Last year, frequent contributor Glen Martin faced the ghosts of his past when he returned to his hometown of Atascadero, California.

The Real Life Black Mirror?

Recently, I was in a Lyft in Los Angeles discussing the British dystopian television show, Black Mirror, with my driver. I told him about the episode in which every person you interact with can rate you: coworkers, friends, baristas all have the power to determine your social capital. “Oh!” the driver interrupted, “they already have this in China!”

A Massive Project Sheds Light on California’s Criminal Cops

In May of last year, Laurence Du Sault and Katey Rusch stood hunched over a single desk in a records room in a courthouse in Lancaster, California, carefully parsing and then photocopying court files they had pulled on numerous police officers convicted of crimes. No chairs and no breaks, they had already overstayed the window during which they were supposed to have access to the files. When their visit was complete—one of dozens of trips to courthouses they had made that spring and summer—they left with copies of pages from 13 case files.

As More Extremists Radicalize Online, Can Violence be Prevented?

The Christchurch mosque shooting was the clearest turning point: a mass murder that was, as the New York Times put it at the time, “of, and for, the Internet.” The gunman had teased the shooting on Twitter, announced it on the anonymous, fringe forum 8chan, a megaphone for extremist political views and hateful ideology, and it was live streamed on Facebook. On YouTube, Reddit, and elsewhere, the video of the shooting was repeatedly uploaded faster than the sites’ moderators could take it down.

Elite Athletes and the Pregnancy Penalty

Alysia Montaño had just finished a workout when she got the call. It had been only four months since the birth of her daughter, Linnea, in 2014, but she was feeling strong and had her sights set on the 400-meter race at the USA Track & Field Championships in Sacramento. She had worked hard throughout her pregnancy, going to photo shoots in Los Angeles with her sponsor Asics, and continuing to train and race. She said of her mind-set at the time: “I was 100 percent an Asics athlete. Wherever you need me, I’ll be there.”

From the Fall 2019 issue of California.

A Balancing Act at the Border

For 45 minutes, on July 28, if you happened to be at the border between Sunland Park, New Mexico and Ciudad Juarez, you’d come across something surprising: a hot pink seesaw.

Attention Everyone: That Manhole Is Now a Maintenance Hole

In Berkeley, even construction sites are woke. Last month, the Berkeley City Council approved an ordinance to change the language in the city’s municipal code to be gender neutral. That’s not a manhole over there, it’s now a maintenance hole. And that policeman? They are a police officer. Speaking of “they;” the pronouns “they” and “them” will be used in place of gendered language, including when referencing a single individual. You think that vase was man-made? Wrong again—it was human-made. Unless of course it was machine-made.

Scientists Are Using Laser Technology to “Fireproof” California

When the Tubbs and Nuns wildfires exploded across Sonoma County in 2017, firefighters found they lacked critical information. Details on the vegetation, structures, and roads distributed across the landscape would have helped them better evacuate residents and allocate fire suppression resources.

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