Law, race and education: a study of the role of the court expert in the Boston schools desegregation litigation

Richardson-Oakes, Anne (2009) Law, race and education: a study of the role of the court expert in the Boston schools desegregation litigation. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


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In the United States, following the case of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), federal judges with responsibility for public school desegregation but no expertise in education or schools management appointed experts from the social sciences to act as court advisors. In Boston, MA, educational sociologists helped Judge W. Arthur Garrity design and implement a desegregation plan which required the restructuring of the city's public school system and judicial oversight lasting for a period of twenty years raising questions of legitimacy which have become more important over time. Moreover, the Boston plan embraced an initial commitment to educational enhancement, but the educational outcomes were subsequently marginalized by a desegregation jurisprudence conceptualized in terms of race rather than education and thus largely doomed to fail.

This inquiry takes as its focus a series of memos written by the expert advisors to the judge. They cover more or less every aspect of the Boston schools case but came into the public domain only once the case was closed and the judge donated his chambers papers to the Healey Library, University of Massachusetts in 1997. Little studied by scholars to date, these papers permit questions to be explored in a way which was not possible at the time and provide a focus for exploring contemporary concerns. To that extent, this research breaks new ground.

This work draws on the archival resource to develop narratives of the experts' work which move from the initial underlying legitimacy concerns of traditional liberal analysis towards perspectives which foreground the indeterminacy of legal rights and are thus skeptical of the long-term value of rights-based constitutional litigation. The outline of a theory of the role of the court experts in schools desegregation with which this work concludes constitutes an attempt to theorize the relationship between the judge and his assistants in such a way as to make a further contribution to these debates.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
October 2009Completed
Subjects: CAH16 - law > CAH16-01 - law > CAH16-01-01 - law
Divisions: Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > College of Law, Social and Criminal Justice
Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Richard Birley
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2017 12:14
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 14:08

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