How do we change the legal system when the legal system protects the status quo? Can we as lawyers create social change without a strong grassroots movement that insists on change, and if not, how can we best serve these movements? And when grassroots leaders, like Tim DeChristopher, are punished for acts of civil disobedience while the law legalizes the harmful actions of the powerful, how can we move justice forward? Tim’s lawyer said after the trial that “[i]t’s tragic that when we need our best and brightest to work on seemingly intractable problems like climate change and economic inequality we put them in prison.”(Painting credit Robert Shetterly, Americans Who Tell the Truth).
Tim’s act of personal sacrifice came after abundant failures to pass comprehensive climate legislation in this country and after failure of international efforts to secure a legally binding cap on carbon emissions. The climate change policies that Tim is calling for threaten to upset the delicate balance of the U.S. and global economies to better reflect principles of equity, justice, and environmental stewardship. But the outcome of the legal decision implicating him suggests a two-tiered legal system, one for the powerful and one for the poor. How, then, can we use Tim’s example to help us better understand how the justice system both helps and hinders movements for justice in this country, especially on issues like climate change that have implications for justice far and wide?


Join an online conversation hosted by Orion magazine on Tuesday, February 21, at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific, with Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, and Patrick Shea, attorney for Tim DeChristopher. Orion published Terry Tempest Williams’s interview of Tim DeChristopher, “What Love Looks Like,” in its January/February 2012 issue. Three Degrees will be tuning into the webinar from Seattle.