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Expanding the Conversation

Hispanic law reviews provide an outlet to address Latino issues overlooked by other law reviews.

David Abella, who is co-editor-in-chief of La Raza Law Journal with Gloria Espitia at the University of California, Berkeley, says the journal has helped him stay connected to the Hispanic community.

They’re not the topics found in a conventional law review: An Austinbased journal delved into the reproductive rights of Hispanic women entering into commercial surrogacy contracts.

The next issue of a University of California, Berkeley-based journal will probe the Voting Rights Act — and how it affects Puerto Ricans. A Harvard-based review once took on taxation of undocumented immigrants. And at the University of California, Los Angeles, this semester, the review will turn a mirror on itself and others with a historical look back at Hispanic law reviews.

Not your traditional topics. And that, precisely, has been the point of the four Hispanic- focused, student-edited publications that began with the first, UCLA’s Chicano Law Review, in 1972.

“Too often, civil rights scholarship means writing about the issues and problems of Blacks. Not immigrants. Not people who are Spanish-speaking,” says Seattle University law professor Richard Delgado, whose new book Latinos and the Law: Cases and Materials, co-authored with Seattle University research professor Jean Stefancic and University of Florida law professor Juan Perea, will be dissected in the next issue of the Harvard Latino Law Review.

“The specialized Latino law reviews have been very helpful for us in expanding consideration of civil rights beyond the traditional binary paradigm of Black and White,” Delgado adds.

Says Stefancic: “They provide an outlet for specialized pieces that other law reviews pass over.” Launched on the heels of the Mexican American-based Chicano movement, the UCLA-based review later expanded its focus and changed its name to the Chicana/o Latina/o Law Review. In 1983, the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal published its first issue. And in 1992 and 1994, respectively, the other two joined the legal scholarship scene: the Hispanic Law Journal at the University of Texas at Austin, now the Texas Hispanic Journal of Law & Policy, as well as the Harvard Latino Law Review.

The student editors wanted to work on a law journal, but they wanted more.

“I wanted to get involved with scholarly type activity, but I wanted to be involved in the Latino community — and it seems like a good way to do that,” says Patrick Morales- Doyle, a third-year student at Harvard Law and one of the editors-in-chief of the Harvard Latino Law Review. “It’s a very small community, but it means people know each other. You get to do more early on than in other journals.”

David Abella, co-editor-in-chief of La Raza Law Journal at UC Berkeley who is the son of a Salvadoran immigrant mother and a Filipino father, says he sought a sense of community.

“That is a very big thing in law schools. We look to cling to circles of people who can help us get through this,” says Ab e l l a , a second-year law student.

“In the first year, we read all these cases that seem so removed from the legal needs I see on a daily basis. It’s been an outlet that has helped me be an activist to benefit the community.”

The reviews tap law professors and practitioners — and sometimes students — for content. Today, all four journals are sanctioned by their law schools. That wasn’t always so. In its beginning, the Chicano Law Review wasn’t officially recognized at UCLA, says co-editor Joel Marrero.

“Through oral histories told by prior executive board members, they say it was started in 1972 by a small group of Latino law students unhappy with the lack of attention that the main law reviews and professors had given to Latino issues,” says Marrero, a second-year law student born in Puerto Rico. “They contacted the Chicano studies department and got a space, and eventually the law school took over the law journal and provided financial support.”

An article on the history of diversity at Harvard Law School by Luz E. Herrera notes that the Latino Law Review was initially published by students who “paid out of their own pocket for copying and printing expenses.” In 1995, Harvard Law School allowed the review to use the Harvard name and began providing financial support in 2001.

Even with institutional support, most of the journals try to publish once a year but aren’t always successful.

“It’s our 36th year and we’re about to publish our 29th publication,” says Marrero, who wanted to be co-editor of the UCLA review, in part, to help keep it alive. “I wanted to make sure that the journal still was around.”

Ramona E. Romero, president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, says that such academic journals are so essential that the organization launched its own Journal of Law and Policy last summer.

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