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UF Law Home to One of Nation’s Largest Concentrations of Critical Legal Scholarship, Adding Diversity & Depth to Curriculum

Published: April 12th, 2004

Category: News

The University of Florida Levin College of Law is well-known in academic and legal circles for its established areas of expertise in Taxation and Environmental Law, as witnessed by the school’s top ranking in these areas by U.S. News & World Report in its review last week of the nation’s best graduate schools. And its strengths in International, Intellectual Property, Children and Families Law and Estates and Trusts Practice also are widely recognized.

Less well-known is that UF’s law school also is home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of faculty publishing in Critical Legal Studies, an interdisciplinary approach to the law.

“If you look at Critical Legal Studies and interdisciplinary schools that attempt to put law in a broader context within the social sciences and other fields, you have a rich group of faculty here doing this kind of work,” said Associate Professor Pedro Malavet, whose book graces the cover of the 2004 NYU Press Catalog.

Critical Legal Studies arose in the 1970s as professors began to contemplate the relationship between power and the law, incorporating history and social sciences into their critiques. From that emerged Critical Race Theory, which focuses on race and the law, and LatCrit, which concentrates on how the law affects Latinas/os.

With the creation of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations in the late 1990s, the UF College of Law has emerged on the forefront of Critical Legal Studies and/or Critical Race Theory, with books by UF law faculty Nancy Dowd and Michelle Jacobs (Feminist Legal Theory, An Anti-Essentialist Reader), Berta Hernandez-Truyol (Moral Imperialism, A Critical Anthology), Pedro Malavet (America’s Colony, The Political and Cultural Conflict Between the United States and Puerto Rico) and Katheryn Russell-Brown (The Color of Crime and Underground Codes) included in the NYU Press Law 2004 catalog. Professor Juan Perea has had two books in the catalog, Race and Races: Cases and Resources for a Diverse America and IMMIGRANTS OUT! The New Nativism and the Anti- Immigrant Impulse in the United States. New York University Press’ celebrated Critical America Series, written specifically for law students and academics, explores areas of the law not included in the casebooks, such as culture, anthropology and legal history. In addition, dozens of other faculty members (see sidebar) have participated in scholarship that attempts to view law in the broader context of the social sciences and other academic disciplines.

“Interdisciplinarity is clearly a strength of the faculty,” said Assistant Professor Mark Fenster, who has written on law, society and culture.

The interest UF law professors have shown in interdisciplinary scholarship has allowed the school to offer “nontraditional” courses of study to its students, including Law and Psychology, Gender and the Law, and African-American History and the Law. Student interest has been strong.

“It’s refreshing to study how the law works in the ‘real world,’” said Jill Mahler (2L), who is currently taking Professor Kenneth Nunn’s African- American History and the Law course. “The law doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and I think the work these professors have done can help law students understand what we’ll face when we graduate.”

For a complete list of publications and background on the faculty featured in this article, go online to

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