colorful illustration of two profiles, one wearing police hat, other without.

The Spring 2023 Mitchell Lecture

Race, the Supreme Court, and Police Power

What if a constitutional right meant to guarantee your security was actually a license to harm or even kill you? That was the premise for the 2023 James McCormick Mitchell Lecture, the University at Buffalo School of Law’s signature lecture series titled “Race, the Supreme Court, and Police Power.”

man, smiling, looking to his left.

The speaker, UCLA School of Law Professor Devon W. Carbado, is a renowned scholar of constitutional law, criminal procedure and critical race theory. His widely acclaimed book Unreasonable: Black Lives, Police Power, and the Fourth Amendment, published last year, argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to treat unreasonable police tactics as reasonable under the Fourth Amendment has “shortened the distance between life and death for Black people.”

“Many forms of policing that people find troubling are perfectly legal under a particular body of constitutional law—Fourth Amendment doctrine,” Carbado writes. “Over the past five decades, the Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourth Amendment to allocate enormous power to the police: to surveil, to racially profile, to stop-and-frisk, and to kill."

Friday, April 7, 2023

Mitchell Lecture Committee
  • Prof. Christine Bartholomew
  • Prof. Michael Boucai (Chair)
  • Marlene Cook
  • Prof. Alexandra Harrington
  • Lisa Mueller
  • Brandon Tubinis

Carbado explored these themes which included a panel discussion with UB Law faculty members, Alexandra Harrington, associate professor and Athena Mutua, professor and Floyd H. & Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar.

“Police victimization of people of color is an obvious moral scandal.,” says Professor Michael Boucai, chair of the law school’s Mitchell Lecture Steering Committee. “Far less evident are the legal mechanisms enabling it. That's what makes Professor Carbado’s recent work so necessary. His description of the problem’s constitutional architecture is unmatched in acumen and accessibility.”

A 1994 graduate of Harvard Law School, Carbado holds the Hon. Harry Pregerson Professor of Law chair at UCLA School of Law, whose faculty he joined in 1997.

About the Mitchell Lecture Series

The Mitchell Lecture Series was endowed in 1950 by a gift from Lavinia A. Mitchell, in memory of her husband, James McCormick Mitchell. An 1897 graduate of the Buffalo Law School, Mitchell later served as chairman of the Council of the University of Buffalo, which was then a private university.

Justice Robert H. Jackson delivered the first Mitchell Lecture in 1951, titled "Wartime Security and Liberty Under Law." The lecture was published that year in the first issue of the Buffalo Law Review.

Mitchell Lecture programs have brought many distinguished speakers to the University at Buffalo School of Law, including Derrick Bell, Paul Freund, Lawrence Friedman, Carol Gilligan, Sheila Jasanoff, Duncan Kennedy, Karl Llewellyn, Stuart Macaulay, Catharine MacKinnon, and Richard Posner.