Ronald W. Brown, an editor of the Access to Justice Committee newsletter, interviewed David Troutt, professor of law (Justice John J. Francis Scholar), founding director of the Rutgers Center on Law in Metropolitan Equity (CLiME), and author of The Price of Paradise.
Please tell our readers about yourself and the Center on Law in Metropolitan Equity you started.
I am a son of Harlem. I went to Stanford for undergrad and to Harvard for law school. I spent a few years with a large firm. I have a love for intellectual property, but I also realized I have strong interdisciplinary interests for which there is room in the law. I have been essentially committed to public-interest-law advocacy, and that led me to start the Center of Law in Metropolitan Equity at Rutgers Law School. CLiME grew out of a need to connect law students interested in pursuing clinical research on issues of race, socioeconomic class, and the opportunity dynamics of place. CLiME is an institution within the law school that encourages these broader inquiries.
At CLiME’s First Annual Scholarship Conference, you said that CLiME was multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary and that its work should be of interest to advocates and litigators who need to understand the social science underlying certain metropolitan matters. Because this interview will appear in a publication of the ABA Section of Litigation, could you expand on your statement and tell these advocates and litigators how the work of CLiME might impact them?
I think the answer to your question is found on our website. We proceed from this premise: Communities are the product not only of their residents but also of their legal rules and institutional networks. Stable communities are characterized by such resources as a strong tax base, the democratic participation of members, solid schools, robust civic organizations, steady economic growth and healthy opportunities for recreation, self-expression, and meeting basic household needs for goods and services. These are hallmarks of middle-class residential organization. Unstable communities experience the opposite—declining tax bases, weakened social and political structures, overwhelmed public institutions, and severe underinvestment. These are traits associated with poor or economically marginalized areas. The study of metropolitan equity reveals the structural inequality that often exists among communities and municipalities within the very same region and the inequitable processes that sustain inequality. Sustained inequality is inefficient, unfair, and violative of important legal norms. Persistent patterns of racial and economic segregation brought about through exclusion, flawed public policy, and discrimination exacerbate inter-local disparities in ways that threaten the prospects for opportunity across entire metropolitan areas, making them less competitive, more expensive, and for those in greatest need, unnecessarily difficult. The importance of developing more inclusive laws and policies of mutuality increases amid the growing racial and ethnic diversity of metropolitan America. Few states reflect these trends more than New Jersey. We embrace that challenge. Through CLiME’s research, archives, public forums, and collaboration with others, our fellows and faculty staff are committed to promoting both statewide and national discourse on the many subjects we collectively refer to as “metropolitan equity.”