Baldy Center Has Risen to Top Among Programs Focusing on Interdisciplinary Study of Law, Legal Institutions

Program in UB Law School marking 25th anniversary

By Mary Beth Spina

Release Date: September 29, 2000

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, which began at the University at Buffalo Law School as a program in law and the social sciences, is celebrating its 25th anniversary as one of the top academic institutions internationally recognized for interdisciplinary study of law and legal institutions.

Fueled by a bequest from Christopher Baldy, a 1910 UB law graduate and prominent Buffalo attorney, the center's activities are geared to adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of law and society here and abroad.

"Our activities make us more visible throughout the country and around the world and help us to draw outstanding students and faculty members to our campus," says center director and UB law professor David M. Engel.

"Today, the program at UB is mentioned in the same breath with programs at Berkeley, Wisconsin, New York University and Oxford," he adds.

The broad outline of an interdisciplinary program took root under then law school dean Richard D. Schwartz, becoming the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy in 1978 under the deanship of Thomas E. Headrick, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor. Barry B. Boyer, professor of law, served as director for 14 years before becoming law school dean in 1992.

Today, the center provides a forum for more than 100 affiliated UB faculty members and interested students to discuss and collaborate on research dealing with legal and social issues here and abroad. Interests and expertise intersect through more than a dozen disciplines in the Law School, School of Social Work, School of Management, College of Arts and Sciences and the Libraries.

The Baldy Center sponsors faculty-level sociolegal research, lectures and instruction within five broad research programs:

• Children, Families and the Law. Members of this program explore how law and policy deal with children as legal subjects, victims, witnesses, and as perpetrators of illegal acts. Studies have addressed such topics as parental and medical perceptions of child abuse, the veracity and credibility of child witnesses in legal proceedings, prosecution of child abuse homicides, child protective services processing of cases, and adolescent delinquency and substance abuse. Researchers in this program have been particularly interested in the psychological dimensions of interactions between children and their families, on the one hand, and legal institutions and human services agencies, on the other hand. The program is directed by Murray Levine, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the UB Department of Psychology, and Susan Mangold, associate professor of law.

• Community and Identity. Research in this program investigates the processes of law and social change that operate within communities to include some persons and groups while excluding others. It examines the role of law in creating norms or perceptions through which groups attempt to define themselves as dominant and others as subordinate or deviant. It also examines the capacity of law to transform or reverse these processes of exclusion and subordination. Studies in this program have focused on such groups as the poor, racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, prisoners, women in the labor movement and the job market, the working classes and the elderly. The program is directed by a steering committee that includes Meghan Cope, assistant professor of geography; David Gerber, professor of history; Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of English, and Frank Munger, professor of law.

• Gender, Law and Social Policy. Research in this program explores the intersections of legal, social, and political constructions of gender and gender-related issues. One group of studies addresses issues related to reproductive rights, such as legal interpretations of reproductive injury and pain (DES litigation), abortion rights activism and reproductive technology. A second group of studies addresses issues related to women of color, such as African-American women in the military and public-interest advocacy for women of color. A third group of studies explores women's participation in the paid labor force and the issues their participation has raised for policymakers, judges, arbitrators, and union activists. A fourth group is engaged in community-based research on various issues relating to violence against women. The program is directed by law professor Lucinda Finley.

• International and Comparative Legal Studies. The Program on International and Comparative Legal Studies fosters and encourages interdisciplinary research and scholarship in the rapidly expanding fields of international and comparative law. Members of this program conduct research on the national and transnational arenas where law and policy impact each other to generate social phenomena and practices. In addition to research in issues of international law -- such as human rights, international business, international institutions and the relationships between states -- the program covers national and comparative studies in law-like or law-related norms, practices, processes and institutions at local, national and international level. Co-directors of the program are Claude E. Welch, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the UB Department of Political Science, and law professor Makau Mutua.

• Regulation and Public Policy. Research in this program explores the purpose of government and the policy methods chosen to implement social goals. Several members are interested in the political economy and political philosophy of the welfare state. Other members are interested in organization theory as applied to regulation. Examples of current research projects include: a philosophical inquiry into the justification of progressive taxation and its relation to collective decision-making; an examination of changes in U.S. workers' compensation systems; a history of federal pension legislation; a history of quasi-governmental corporations; and economic analysis of the effects of regulation on the organization of firms. Program co-directors are Martha McCluskey, associate professor of law; and Govind Hariharan, assistant professor of finance and managerial economics in the UB School of Management.

Although it does not directly fund research projects, the center provides seed money for selected proposals from affiliated faculty and funds support services for student research assistants and research-related travel and other expenses.

It regularly publishes the "Baldy Bulletin," which lists news items, upcoming center-sponsored events and activities and announcements of relevant local, national and international meetings.

The center's "Working Paper Series" publishes results of faculty members' research. The center also serves as the home for Law & Policy, an interdisciplinary journal of law and social science, published through a cooperative editorial arrangement with Oxford University's Centre for Socio-Legal Studies in England. The journal is co-edited by Murray Levine.

Each fall, the center's Short Course Series is taught by distinguished visitors who have included two ambassadors to the United Nations, a leading American legal expert on crime and youth and one of the most influential authorities on women and the law.

Conferences also have been sponsored on "Poverty, Low-Wage Labor and Social Retrenchment," "The New York State Death Penalty," "Collaborative Interventions in Family Violence Cases in Western New York" and "The Role of Rights in Everyday Life."

"We also are building a network of scholars from Western New York and Canada and have invited them to gather each spring in either Toronto or Buffalo to compare research and teaching of interdisciplinary legal studies," Engel points out.

In July, the center hosted the Law and Society Association's eighth summer institute on race and the law, featuring nine nationally recognized faculty who discussed their theme-related scholarly work, provided advice, instruction and mentoring for invited advanced graduate students and junior faculty from the Americas.

The center's three-member full-time staff is headed by associate director Laura Mangan.

Additional information on the Baldy Center is available through its Web site at http://wings.buffalo.edu/baldycenter/, e-mail at baldyctr@acsu.buffalo.edu or telephone at (716) 645-2102.