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Thriving cities of all sizes and geographies are at the heart of our economic and social lives. More than 80 percent of U.S. residents live in urban areas. Cities produce more than 75 percent of the nation's economic output and serve as centers of cultural activity. While technological advances allow us to live in more isolated and independent ways, cities persist on account of the human need for connection and common experience. Cities are most often the places where people are closest to government and where innovation and real change is happening. Yet cities also face serious, systemic challenges that impact the quality of life of those who live and work there, as well as the success of the entire nation. Despite headlines claiming revitalization, cities around the country face problems of inadequate education and healthcare, deteriorating transportation infrastructure, the need for affordable housing, racial and ethnic inequalities, missing or mismatched economic opportunities, and dwindling citizen engagement. Who benefits from the return of the American city? Who is and who should be leading or participating in the return of the city? How can we ensure that the American cities are inclusive centers of opportunity? What role do lawyers play in restoring our nation's cities? How can lawyers and legal frameworks support the creation of more sustainable and equitable cities? There are no easy solutions and no two cities are alike; yet a multi-faceted and complex urban place and experience is common to every city, providing rich material to draw connections and learn lessons in furtherance of our collective hope for liberty and justice for all. How our society and justice system answers these fundamental questions may determine whether cities can fulfill the promise of the American democracy. ​​​​​​
All events will take place in South Hall 1225.

9:00-9:15 A.M.: Welcome and Introduction
Alicia Alvarez, University of Michigan Law School 

9:15-10:45 A.M.: Panel I
Moderator: Anne M. ​Choike, University of Michigan Law School
Sara C. Bronin, University of Connecticut School of Law
Sheila R. Foster, Fordham University School of Law
Justin Hollander, Tufts University

This panel explores access to public and private places in our cities. Safe, affordable, and accessible property remains an essential core of healthy and prosperous cities. Neighborhoods around the country confront the problem of vacant properties, which destabilize communities in some scenarios and lure developers and new residents as "blank slates" in others. Scores of families and vulnerable individuals are priced out of housing, losing their homes to controversial tax foreclosures, to harassment or rent hikes from landlords, or simply because they cannot afford cities' high cost of living. Children in neighborhoods around the country need access to parks and recreational activities, at the same time that control of both are changing hands from city and state governments, quasi-private and private organizations, and individuals. Populations of city residents are shifting or shrinking, and they need transportation to traverse urban space in order to get to jobs and obtain health care, services, and basic necessities. Private organizations investing in mass transit are making critical determinations that affect a public to whom they are unaccountable; meanwhile, cities are decommissioning or privatizing existing transportation infrastructure such as buses, bridges, and freeways as they reconsider budget priorities and the primacy of automobiles over pedestrians. What legal standards and processes are in place to determine how urban land should be distributed and who should determine its best uses? ​

11:00 A.M.-12:30 P.M.: Panel II
Moderator: Kate Andrias, University of Michigan Law School
Michael S. Barr, University of Michigan Law School
Rashmi Dyal-Chand, Northeastern University School of Law
Sushil C. Jacob, Tuttle Law Group

This panel delves into the questions of opportunities, access, and ability of city residents to participate fully in a sustainable economy. Healthy cities need residents who are economically secure. Many families and vulnerable individuals in cities throughout our country are living on the financial edge, struggling to find and keep jobs that allow them to meet basic needs. As service positions replace higher-paying jobs in disappearing economic sectors like manufacturing, some cities respond by raising their minimum wage while others invest in strategies aimed at innovation-driven and top-down economic growth. Some advocate community-based ownership as a way to create a sustainable economy. Mismatches between jobs and the labor force's location and qualifications exacerbate job seekers' difficulties. How can legal structures contribute to full access and equitable participation in the economic life of the nation and create sustainable cities? 

2:00-3:00 P.M.: Keynote Address

3:15-4:45 P.M.: Panel III
Moderator: Sonja B. Starr, University of Michigan Law School
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández​, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Sara K. Rankin, Seattle University School of Law
Heather Ann Thompson, University of Michigan

This panel addresses the need for justice to support individuals and communities in a way that recognizes our "shared mutual humanity." Many residents of our cities face challenges that keep them from developing their full human potential and being recognized by society as persons with racial, ethnic, gender, religious, cultural, and other identities that matter. The financial crisis exacerbated poverty and income inequality. Schools in many of our cities fail to prepare our children for participation in our democracy and our economy, and are burdened by the same budgetary pressures that endanger cities' public museums, libraries, and other institutions that promote cultural understanding, expression, and dialogue. Residents of many urban areas are terrorized by violence in the forms of crime as well as police brutality. Our criminal justice system incarcerates at a higher rate than any other country in the world, and young men of color and the homeless who often live in urban neighborhoods are imprisoned at rates higher than their demographics. Many in our nation of immigrants agree that our immigration system is broken and increasingly punitive in its militarization of border, policing of immigrant communities, and rising use of immigrant detention centers. How can lawyers and the legal process insure that residents of our cities fully reach their human potential and are able to participate in modern society?​
Alicia Alvarez​, Clinical Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School

Michelle W. Anderson, Professor of Law, Stanford University Law School
Kate Andrias, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School

Michael S. Barr, Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School
Sara C. Bronin​, Professor of Law, University of Connecticut School of Law

Anne M. Choike, Clinical Fellow, University of Michigan Law School

Rashmi Dyal-Chand, Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law

Sheila R. Foster, Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Justin Hollander, Associate Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University
Sushil C. Jacob, Tuttle Law Group

Sara K. Rankin, Associate Professor of Lawyering Skills, Seattle University School of Law
Sonja B. Starr, Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School
Heather Ann Thompson​, University of Michigan

Please click here​ for information about getting to campus and parking.