Amherst College Law Professor Austin Sarat Defends "Cause Lawyering" in "Something to Believe In"
October 1, 2004
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.-Austin Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College, is the co-author of Something to Believe In: Politics, Professionalism and Cause Lawyering ($35, Stanford University Press, Palo Alto, 2004). Sarat and Stuart Scheingold, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Washington, explore the controversial work of cause lawyers-human rights lawyers, feminist lawyers, right-to-life lawyers, civil rights and civil liberties lawyers, anti-death penalty lawyers, environmental lawyers, property rights lawyers and anti-poverty lawyers.
Lawyers in the United States are trained to see lawyering as a technical activity, not a moral or political calling, and are supposed to be willing to set aside their own beliefs and work for any client. Cause lawyers, according to Sarat and Scheingold, refuse to deny their own convictions, and challenge the conventions of what lawyers should do and of how they should behave. Something to Believe In examines the role of social commitment in their practice, their relationships to the organized legal profession and the contributions they make to democratic politics.
Sarat has taught at Amherst since 1974, and is the author of When the State Kills: Capital Punishment and the American Condition. He has served as President of the Law and Society Association and of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities.