The 2023-24 Gilbert Goldstein Faculty Fellowship has been awarded to Suzette Malveaux, Colorado Law’s Moses Lasky Professor of Law and Director of the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law. Awarded by the Dean, the fellowship provides one semester without teaching responsibilities to enable concentration on research and writing.
Professor Malveaux is a member of the American Law Institute and former Chair of the American Association of Law Schools Civil Procedure Section. She has taught in the areas of Civil Procedure, Complex Litigation, Employment Discrimination, Civil Rights, and Constitutional Law for two decades. Her scholarship explores the intersection of civil rights and civil procedure, and access to justice issues. Her research has been published in the Harvard Law Review Forum, George Washington Law Review, Boston University Law Review, Washington University Law Review, Kansas Law Review, Boston College Law Review, and the Berkeley Journal of Employment & Labor Law.
Professor Malveaux graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. She earned her J.D. from NYU School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden Scholar, Associate Editor of the Law Review, and Center for International Law Fellow.
Gilbert Goldstein ‘42, for whom the fellowship is named, is remembered not only as a tremendously successful graduate of the law school, but also as a longtime, dedicated supporter of the greater Denver legal community. The MDC/Richmond American Homes Foundation established the Gilbert Goldstein Fund in recognition of his dedication and generosity. The fund awards scholarships and fellowships to deserving Colorado Law students and faculty.
“I am so pleased to share that Professor Malveaux is this year’s Goldstein fellow!” said Colorado Law Dean Lolita Buckner Inniss, “Her interdisciplinary research, as well as her commitment to her students and their success, make her an incredibly valuable part of our community. We are eager to see what she will delve into during her time as a Goldstein fellow.”
The law school’s Emily Battaglia spoke with Professor Malveaux about her upcoming semester of research.
Thank you so much for taking some time to chat! What are your research plans for your time as a fellow?
SM: I’m excited to spend my time as the Gilbert Goldstein Faculty Research Fellow exploring procedural justice in the civil court system. While we often focus on substantive rights, they are futile without robust procedural rights. My research will focus on some of the thorny issues where process may be politicized, and even weaponized, to the detriment of many Americans.
That sounds fascinating—would you mind sharing an example of one of these issues in the present day?
SM: Of course. Gridlock and hyper-partisanship often characterize current U.S. politics. However, Congress recently passed the bipartisan Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Claims Act of 2021. This Act protects victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment from being shut out of the courts and forced into arbitration—a forum which often provides fewer procedural protections such as a jury trial, right to appeal, and access to critical evidence. Congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle recognized the deep flaws in mandatory arbitration and enacted this law that will enable sexual abuse victims to come out of the shadows and get their day in court.
This groundbreaking and important legislation is an excellent start, but it is not enough. For example, survivors of racial violence and racial harassment should also be allowed to have court access and let their claims be given the light of day. They deserve the same right to choose whether to defend themselves in court or arbitration, yet they don’t have the same legal protection. My work will explore this disconnect and argue that there is an unjustifiable incongruency between the treatment of race and sex when it comes to procedural protection in the civil court system.
Are there any other major projects you will be taking on during this time?
SM: This fellowship also gives me the time to examine more broadly the legitimacy of law’s tethering access to justice to our identities. My larger project will contend that protecting only some groups, with the resources and power to lobby Congress, while leaving others behind, risks creating procedural caste.
What inspired this research? And how does it build upon your current work?
SM: My research is situated at the intersection of two areas of law: civil procedure and civil rights. Throughout my academic career, my scholarship) has explored this intersection. My teaching for the last two decades is also grounded in these two subject areas. As former Chair of the AALS (American Association of Law Schools) Civil Procedure section and CU’s Director of the Byron R. White Center for the Study of Constitutional Law, I get to learn from colleagues nationwide who share their expertise in both subject matters. Finally, my own work as a class action specialist and civil rights attorney for eight years prior to entering academia has grounded my work in important ways.
My interdisciplinary approach is inspired by my desire to promote fair processes and robust Constitutional and civil rights enforcement. My upcoming project will build on some of my more recent projects.
For example, over the last half century, the U.S. Supreme Court has systemically eroded everyday Americans’ capacity to enforce their civil rights by erecting procedural barriers in the civil court system. This problem has flown under the radar, slowly chipping away at precious substantive rights. This led to my giving CU’s 46th annual distinguished Scott Lecture on the topic and writing Is It Time for a New Civil Rights Act? Addressing Modern Obstructionist Procedure, 63 B.C. L. Rev. 1 (2022), two years later. This article demonstrates that we need a new law that corrects the harms of procedural restrictions on civil rights enforcement. It concludes that the cumulative effect of the Supreme Court’s regressive decisions calls for a new procedural civil rights act and sets forth what that would look like.
I’ve also had the pleasure of learning from civil proceduralists all over the country who contributed to A Guide to Civil Procedure: Integrating Critical Legal Perspectives (NYU Press 2022), a book I co-edited. Our book offers a variety of critiques and critical legal perspectives of civil procedure doctrine and gives students a fuller way of understanding this foundational subject. This work keeps me grounded about how the civil justice system actually works and who it benefits.
How does having a break from teaching impact your ability to dive into this kind of work?
SM: That’s a great question! As professors, we spend a lot of time teaching and mentoring our students and prioritizing their well-being. Each of them brings something special and important to the class. I usually spend my time in the fall teaching Civil Procedure to about 60 first year students. It’s a tough subject and the first semester of law school is very challenging. This means that I’m 100% dedicated to their learning and success, not only in my class but in entering the profession. I spend my time and energy making sure they have the foundational skills and knowledge to become lawyers in conjunction with teaching them Civil Procedure. I love the enthusiasm, energy and passion they bring, and I treasure introducing them to the powerful and important role they can play as lawyers. Needless to say, that takes a lot of time! Having a break from teaching gives me mental space (and countless hours!) to focus on my research. I welcome being able to take a deep breath and sink into the intellectual work.
Speaking of our amazing students -- will there be any opportunities for student involvement in this research?
SM: Absolutely! I’m excited to have four amazing students serve as my Research Assistants (RAs) this year. Every year, a number of the top students from my Civ Pro and upper level courses apply to be RAs and work with me on my research projects. Their assistance is essential. I enjoy the collaboration and brainstorming we do as a team. Our teamwork only makes my thinking deeper and my work stronger. And they keep me honest! I’m looking forward to a great semester!