Justice Scalia Is Wrong About Poverty Law Being ‘Made-Up Stuff’

Our guest blogger is Peter Edelman, Professor of Law at the Georgetown Law Center.

scalia.jpgI was appalled at Justice Antonin Scalia’s remarks at the Federalist Society about poverty law being “made-up stuff.”

We have 37 million people who live in poverty in this incredibly wealthy nation, and there is a long list of ways in which the law that affects them, either as written or as applied, is all too real. I doubt that Scalia has been in landlord-tenant court recently, or seen how many employers get away with flouting fair labor standards laws, or noticed the myriad of ways in which legal (or, sometimes, illegal) credit practices like payday loans get their claws into people, or watched as people struggle to obtain public benefits to which the law says they have a legal right.

Sometimes the law is on the side of the poor, but the dearth of lawyers to represent the poor make the legal protections irrelevant, and sometimes laws, having been written by landlords and business lobbies, need to be re-examined and rewritten.

But one thing I can tell Justice Scalia. There is a real thing called poverty law, and if he would go to the South or West side of Chicago instead of the Union League Club, he might even find it.