Prof. Abbye Atkinson (Berkeley) @ IFLS: “Debt by another name ” on Monday February 3 1230

Monday February 3, 2020 1230-2PM IKB 2027 (Faculty Lounge)

event poster - all text is in the post. Includes author photograph

Lunch Served. RSVP


ABBYE ATKINSON Berkeley Law, University of California

The US Congress’ reliance on “credit” as a tool of liberation and equality following the Civil Rights and Women’s Right Movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s suggests that Congress viewed credit as a reliable and viable social good.

This valorization of credit, however, explicitly excluded any meaningful consideration of the countervailing force of debt.  Given that debt necessarily accompanies credit as extended and then used, in order for credit to be a social good, debt also has to be a reliable and viable social good. 

Yet debt has itself functioned as a mechanism of the very subordination in marginalized communities that Congress’ invocation of “credit” hoped to address. Credit cannot, in fact, meaningfully function as a social good without due attention to and solution for the work of debt as a social ill.

Professor Abbye Atkinson’s research focuses on the law of debtors and creditors as it affects economically disenfranchised communities. Her work examines how certain legal institutions—such as consumer bankruptcy—that were created with a purpose of improving economic health do not attend to and may actually exacerbate existing inequalities experienced by economically disenfranchised groups. Her recent work has explored structural inequality in the Bankruptcy Code, and whether and how bankruptcy law might serve as a back-stop against debt that results from social problems such as intractable mortgage discrimination and policing for profit. Her work is forthcoming in the Stanford Law Review and has been published in the Vanderbilt Law Review, the Arizona Law Review, and the Michigan Journal of Race and Law.

Before joining Berkeley Law, Atkinson was a Thomas C. Grey Fellow and Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School and the Reginald F. Lewis Fellow at Harvard Law School.  Previously she worked as an associate attorney in the San Francisco office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and she served as a law clerk to the Honorable Ronald M. Gould of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for the Honorable Marilyn Hall Patel of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. She graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School and earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to attending law school, she worked as a special education teacher in California public schools. 

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