Chapman on Slave Cases and Ingrained Racism in Legal Information Infrastructures @UMDLawLibrary @UMDLaw

Jennifer Elisa Chapman, University of Maryland School of Law, University of Maryland Thurgood Marshall Law Library, has published Slave Cases and Ingrained Racism in Legal Information Infrastructures in Antiracist Library and Information Science: Racial Justice and Community (K. Black and B. Mehra, eds., Emerald Publishing, 2023) (Advances in Librarianship; 52).

Present-day courts, practitioners, and scholars continue to cite to and rely upon cases involving slavery and enslaved persons to construe, interpret, and apply common-law principles of property, contract, family, tort, and other areas of the law. Often a case’s connections to slavery are not acknowledged in citations. This erasing of context causes institutional harms by both embedding slave-based legal analysis in American legal structures and condoning the detrimental impacts of slavery in society. The deleterious effects of slavery persist through citations to cases involving enslaved persons to support such prosaic present-day issues as warranties on window glass. Slavery may no longer be legal, but its long shadow persists in citations and, thereby, is embedded in the information systems informing the legal profession. The information infrastructures that categorize case law and inform legal research ingrain racism in the American legal system by perpetuating and masking case law connections to slavery and enslaved persons. The legal profession has recently been criticized for the continued citation to cases that state good law or persuasive authority but are rooted in the institution of slavery. This chapter builds on this important research and contributes a necessary element to the discussion – namely how legal information infrastructures contribute to continuing citation to slave cases and how the library and information science (LIS) field can help institute change and promote racial justice.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.