2008 Sullivan Lecture: Gerald Torres

  • Social Movements and the Ethical Construction of Law

    Gerald Torres, Bryant Smith Chair, University of Texas at Austin School of Law 

    How law is made is often thought of as the province of elites: legal experts or elected or appointed officials. Yet the law is constructed out of the background material that is created by members of the society who are subject to it. Social movements represent organized and mobilized communities who play an important role in constructing authoritative interpretive communities who actually determine what the law is and what ambit elites have for constructing the formal apparatus of law. Professor Torres' lecture will examine the relationship between elites and non-elites in the ethical construction of law.

    About Professor Torres

    Gerald Torres currently holds the Bryant Smith Chair at the University of Texas at Austin and is former President of the Association of American Law Schools. A 1977 graduate of the Yale Law School, he joined the highly-regarded Children's Defense Fund as a staff attorney and took on cases involving civil rights violations of institutionalized children. Torres left CDF to accept a graduate fellowship at the University of Michigan Law School where he studied with Joe Sax, an early pioneer of environmental law. Professor Torres has visited at the Vermont Law School, the Stanford Law School and at the Harvard Law School where he served as the Oneida Nation Visiting Professor of Law. Before Moving to Texas, Professor Torres served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno on environmental matters and Indian affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice. There, he coordinated the department's strategy on environmental justice and co-chaired the inter-agency working group on environmental justice. Torres also helped established the Office of Tribal Justice to coordinate Indian issues within the department and across the government. He has written widely on Indian law and has served as a consultant to several tribes. He also writes in the areas of environmental law and race and the law. In 2001, with Harvard Law School Professor Lani Guinier, Torres co-authored, THE MINERS CANARY: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy (Harvard University Press), www.minerscanary.org.