Obama`s Early Legal Career: Heavy on Advocacy for Blacks
May 09, 2008, 03:04 PM
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With Tim Russert declaring Barack Obama to be the Democratic nominee the other day, I thought it might be interesting to run his name through the legal databases to see which of his cases popped up. I was familiar with his having "summered" (in the stomach-churning patois of what David Lat calls "BigLaw") at white-shoe Sidley Austin (he didn`t join the firm, but met Michelle). But out of Harvard Law School, he joined up with the more modest Miner, Barnhill & Galland, variously described as a politically connected Chicago firm.[As Lawyer, Obama Was Strong, Silent Type, By Abdon M. Pallasch, Chicago Sun-Times, December 17, 2007]

Accounts have him working on a mix of everyday cases, but among the ones show to up in one popular database, he`s slugging it out not for the poor and oppressed generally, but blacks specifically. For context, Carol Moseley Braun once worked at the firm. Two examples of his cases are Barnett v. Daley and Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank.

In Barnett v. Daley (United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 1994, 32 F.3d 1196), Obama was part of team that challenged the racial apportionment of Chicago voting districts as shortchanging blacks, despite the fact that their district power was very close to the black percentage of Chicago`s population. Created were 19 black super-majority districts. Obama`s team wanted 24. At this stage of the case, the brainy Richard Posner reversed a lower court dismissal of the case on the pleadings and sent it back for a consideration on the merits.

Posner recites the Obama team`s information that "no black aldermanic candidate in Chicago has ever beaten a white in a ward that had a black majority of less than 62.6 percent, and it is emphatic that the ward in which the population is 55 percent black is not a black ward—is indeed a white ward, even though only 42 percent of its population is white." I am always amused that in this day of finger-wagging that you can`t generalize about race, Voting Rights Act litigation flatly assumes that voters vote strictly along racial lines. "Candidate of their choice" for any group is, duh, a person of the same race as the district.

After consolidation with a similar suit brought by Hispanics and a 48-day trial (I don`t think Obama was involved), Chicago`s map was upheld, whereupon that decision was... upheld for the Hispanics and remanded for the blacks. At this point, I became exhausted reading about Barnett v. Daley.

But it`s interesting that as Obama embarks on reaching out to all colors of the rainbow, he was once arguing that blacks can`t get elected unless they have enough blacks to vote for them. And don`t bother with the "he was just advocating for his client" line: he`s touted his "civil rights" work as part of his true calling.

In another case, apropos of the current mortgage meltdown, Obama was on the legal team trying to get class certification for blacks "victimized" by home mortgage lenders (Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank, 1995, U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Illinois). The charge was that Citibank wasn`t loaning to blacks. The judge granted the certification.

Of course, as has been noted on VDare.com and elsewhere, these legal "successes" probably underlie much of the meltdown today. Banks weren`t loaning to blacks because their credit is often terrible. When the law forced them to anyway, the expected happened. And, as usual, evil white bankers have been blamed for... "predatory lending."

So, in just two prominent examples, we`ve seen Obama`s mindset revealed, and it`s one of vigorous black racial advocacy. As someone who`d one day like to engage in "white advocacy" in the courtroom, I`m a little jealous that he`s not only gotten the opportunity to fight his fight, but now finds himself running for president with that as a strength, not a weakness.